Wayne County Airport Authority’s Chad Newton on What to Expect When Traveling Through DTW This Summer and Fall

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Chad Newton, CEO of the Wayne County Airport Authority, spoke with Glenn Stevens Jr., executive director of MICHauto and vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives at the Detroit Regional Chamber to provide an update on what travelers can expect when moving through Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) this summer and fall amid the global pandemic.

Operational Challenges

Since March, airports throughout the country, including DTW, have been grappling with the economic impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic. After being ranked the best in customer satisfaction by J.D. Power in 2019, DTW is facing its toughest year yet as revenue numbers fall far below budget projections.

In the month of April, DTW saw only 178,000 passengers come through the airport, while the previous April passenger numbers surpassed three million. In response to the sharp drop in revenue and overall economic impact of the global pandemic, DTW was given nearly $142 million in federal CARES Act grants.

“We build a budget and we try to stick by it, but when the revenues don’t come in that you were expecting and the expenses are still there it makes a really difficult situation,” said Newton.

Impact Comparison: COVID-19 vs. 9/11

Nearly two decades ago, demand and revenue similarly declined after the 9/11 terrorist attacks grounded all air traffic in North America and much for the world for two days. In 2001 the aviation industry was able to bounce fairly quickly, but with COVID-19 the complete economic impact has yet to be seen, as the U.S. continues to combat the virus.

“It’s hard to make a comparison, but 9/11 the U.S. government quickly got involved and increased security measures and I think the confidence levels rose quite faster than what we are seeing now,” said Newton.

DTW Culture and Environment

Throughout the past few months, DTW has also been making updates to their standards of operations as cries for social justice continue nationwide. A duty to intervene policy has been added to their procedures requiring any officer, regardless of rank, to intervene if they see any unsafe act.

“Detroit metro area is a very diverse group of people and we have to be a reflection of the community we live in,” said Newton. “We want to be an example to all law enforcement of ways that you can enforce the law at the same time with dignity and respect.”

Updated Safety Policies

Changes in protocol do not stop there. To help fight the spread of COVID-19 and keep customers safe, DTW has implemented new safety measures:

  • Increased cleaning schedules and frequency.
  • Hand sanitizer stations in terminals and high-traffic areas.
  • Acrylic shields at ticket counters and gate podiums.
  • Social distancing signs throughout the airport.
  • Mask requirements and mask dispensers in the ticket lobby.

“Our goal as the leadership of the Detroit Metro Airport is to make sure that people feel safe, that they know that we are doing the right job to make sure the facilities are clean…and keeping the gates moving so they make connections on time,” said Newton.

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