Southwest Airlines Will Install Shields At Gates And Ticket Counters

Transparent plexiglass shields are now part of Southwest Airlines‘ strategy to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The low-cost American carrier is installing shields at ticket counters and gates where social distancing can’t be so easily observed. The measure is part of a broader pledge to employees and customers that the airline is doing all it can to maintain safety standards.

Southwest airlines at gate
Southwest has issued a promise to customers about its high safety standards. Photo: Anthony Quintano via Flickr

In the pursuit of safety

Southwest Airlines yesterday issued a promise to its passengers and staff that it would continue to make its service as safe as possible. The airline has already been rigorously disinfecting its aircraft, alongside many other carriers. However, it is now going one step further.

Alongside a lengthy bill of safety measures, Southwest is now protecting its staff and travelers with the use of transparent shields. The airline is currently installing Plexiglas® shields at all of its gates and ticket counters to mitigate coronavirus transmission. The shields work by reducing the likelihood of infectious water droplets transferring from person to person.

Plexiglass shields
Southwest’s barriers will protect staff and travelers. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Plexiglas Riesner produces these specific shields in Germany. The plant has been overwhelmed by orders since the pandemic took hold, and it’s now dealing with the busiest period in its history. Plexiglas® has been supplying supermarkets and retail outlets with its product but is now broadening its horizons to airports. Will other airlines and airports catch on?

Are the shields effective?

More and more airlines, including Southwest, are encouraging their passengers to bring their own masks when they fly. Even if that isn’t a mandated regulation, many more passengers are choosing to protect themselves with masks anyway. Social distancing is still being observed. So, how necessary are glass shields? 

Well, even though airlines are trying their best to protect their customers, there are instances where a 2-meter distance doesn’t really work. Shouting across six feet at a check-in desk with a mask on is less than ideal. Plexiglass shields allow people to get that bit closer without compromising their safety too much.

Masks at airport
Shields should be used in addition to masks and social distancing. Photo: Getty Images

This barrier is effective at mitigating the spread of the virus in the sense that infected water droplets will be less easily transferred from one person to another. Despite that, these shields still need to be correctly cleaned to prevent others from coming into contact with the virus.

In the US, plexiglass screens are becoming more common. JFK is said to be using them already, and US Today reports that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is installing the shields at airport security.

The Southwest Promise

However, installing plexiglass shields is just one way that Southwest is working to combat COVID-19. On 1st May, it released a host of other initiatives to keep employees and passengers safe.

Southwest employee sprays aircraft
Extensive cleaning is still a high priority for Southwest Airlines. Photo: Southwest Airlines

On it’s Promise webpage, the airline says:

“The Southwest Promise encompasses additional cleaning practices across the fleet and throughout the day; implements modified procedures to support distancing and contact-free interaction, and it equips Employees with additional protection and policies to bolster their ability to safely transport Southwest Customers and each other.”

Among those practices are:

  • ceaseless cleaning day and night in airports, aircraft, seats, hangars and air filtering
  • social distancing onboard
  • staggered boarding, and
  • a request for customers to download mobile boarding passes.

Southwest will also introduce mandatory customer face masks from 11th May.

Would shields at airports make you feel more comfortable traveling in the current climate? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.