COVID-19 and Your Airport: What Can You Do?

COVID-19 and Your Airport: What Can You Do?

We’re living in a time where the movies and TV shows we binge on Netflix and the books we read seem to be coming to life.

With news and updates about COVID-19 changing by the hour, it’s hard to know which direction to go with your airport marketing and communications.

We’ve been talking about it a lot lately and we know all of you are, too.

It’s a tough time to be in the travel industry, and an even tougher time to figure out the balance between marketing your air service and reassuring people about the steps you’re taking to mitigate the spread of viruses. Is it possible promote Spring Break and summer travel to families and not appear that you have your head in the sand on the concerns people have about COVID-19? Read on for our take.

The worst thing any airport marketing professional can do is stop everything. You might pause some of your marketing and advertising for a time, but then you need to step up your public relations to stay in front of your audience, reassure them, and provide helpful information so that you are almost viewed as a helpful friend. At the same time, behind the scenes, you should continue to plan marketing campaigns so that when things turnaround (and they will!) you are ready to go and don’t waste a second in getting things back up and running. In fact, it will be critical that you hit the ground running as soon as things turn around.

We’ve come up with several suggestions for internal and external communications, and a list of resources for factual information, tools and advice.

Let’s start with the external side of things.

What should you say about COVID-19 and where should you say it?

  1. Start with a compassion statement that communicates that you understand the concerns people have regarding COVID-19 and air travel
  2. Share the steps your airport is taking to help prevent the spread of viruses to keep travelers safe, such as increased cleaning schedules.
    • Consider extra hand sanitizer stations, distributing branded personal-sized hand sanitizers, tissues, have masks available for people who are sick (the CDC recommends only people who are sick use masks – provide signage to reiterate this) and add to the list of steps your airport is taking.
  3. Provide a statement on CDC recommendations regarding travel (this is changing frequently so use this page as a resource:
  4. Provide links to all airline Coronavirus travel update pages. A list of many airline pages is at the end of this post.
  5. Post on all of your social media pages; your website (alerts, homepage, travel update landing page, media page, etc.);
  6. Consider a news release that includes everything above. While you’re at it, you will probably want to have a few additional drafts prepared for if there is a confirmed space in your county/city and in your airport.

Now the hard part, finding the balance between marketing air travel and promoting caution around COVID-19.

Here are our recommendations:

  • Pay attention to the CDC risk assessment by country list This one is obvious, but don’t market travel to any Level 3 Travel Notice countries.
  • Consider keeping your air travel marketing to domestic travel. Don’t include any communities with large outbreaks
  • While travel for those populations age 60+ and/or those with certain chronic health issues isn’t advised, the CDC has provided many resources on precautions people can take if they travel (
  • You might want to consider pulling paid search and display advertising until the end of March and then reassess. The concern with these types of digital advertising is that you don’t have a lot of room for messaging and could appear uncaring and uninformed to some people who are very concerned about catching Coronavirus.
  • Instead, put your resources into organic and paid social media content where you can provide more detail and context to your message using the recommendations we’ve provided.
  • While you’re slowing your advertising efforts (but don’t forget to step up the public relations efforts!), you don’t want to stop planning for the ramp up you’ll need to make when things come back to normal.
  • For any marketing and social media content you’re putting out, picture how it will look between these two posts and let that be your guide in tone and voice.

Other things to consider:

Communicating internally

It’s critical that all of your employees, volunteers, custodial staff, concessions team members, board and anyone else affiliated with your airport have a concise list of key messages they can refer to when getting questions from the public.

  • What do you think of this coronavirus thing?
  • What is the airport doing to mitigate the spread of viruses?
  • How often are hard surfaces disinfected?
  • Is the airport providing additional disinfecting supplies?
  • Provide a laminated card containing a list of resources for a variety of possible concerns: CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) links, airline information,

You’ll also want to reassure employees and instill confidence by anticipating questions they might have. Overcommunicating is the best approach here.

  • Which employees can work from home? What are your remote work policies?
  • What are your sick leave policies? Have any adjustments been made if someone needs to self-quarantine for 14 days?
  • In the case of self-quarantine, are other team members trained to step in? What’s the airport’s business continuity plan?
  • How will you communicate important messages? Intranet, email, bulletin boards, posters in break rooms, etc.
  • Many in the workforce are taking care of younger children and their elderly parents. That’s a stressful situation any time, but multiplied with COVID-19. Sharing Employee Assistance Program information would be helpful for those needing to talk to a professional about issues they’re facing.

It’s going to hurt for a while, but with a strategic and cohesive communications strategy, you will make it and we are here to help in any way we can.

With the situation changing so frequently, we’ll be posting and emailing tips and recommendations weekly. Sign up here:

Sign up for a COVID-19 Virtual Roundtable

We are holding weekly Virtual Roundtables for aviation professionals as part of the Airport Roundtable Series. Learn more and register on the Airport Roundtable Series website.



A few airline travel update pages: