I went behind the scenes at JFK airport to see how Delta is overhauling its airport experience to try to convince flyers air travel is safe

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderInside Delta Air Lines’ operation at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
  • Delta Air Lines has spent the past six months overhauling the airport experience and the result is an ultra-safe environment that will hopefully ease the public back into flying.
  • Social distancing signage, in-depth cleanings, and reminders about what Delta is doing to keep flyers safe can now be found in every aspect of the airport experience.
  • Enhanced measures onboard the aircraft also including fogging and built-in hand sanitizer dispensers are also becoming standard for every flight.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

One of the major roadblocks that the airlines are facing on the road to recovery is convincing flyers that air travel is safe.

Fears of the coronavirus’ spread onboard aeroplanes have played a role in keeping flyers on the ground for most of the spring, summer, and now into fall. Airlines haven’t yet found the perfect formula but are constantly evaluating ways of instilling the confidence to travel back into the minds of the American public.

Since March, Delta Air Lines has been overhauling its health and safety standards in an effort to be ready for when the world returns to the skies in numbers seen before the pandemic.

Business Insider flew on Delta in June and found that the airline was leading its top competitors — American Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, in health and safety largely because of how its implemented new peace of mind commitments while largely maintaining the pre-pandemic aspects of flying that travellers have come to expect. But the airline hasn’t stopped there and used the summer to continue upgrading its facilities and onboard services just in time for the holidays.

Delta invited Business Insider to its hub at John F. Kennedy International Airport to see how the flying experience has changed even more so from our last time in the skies with the airline four months ago.

Here’s what we saw.


This is Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, home to countless international airlines carrying thousands of passengers every day.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Its largest tenant is Delta Air Lines, which maintains an extensive domestic and international hub here in New York.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

For most returning travellers, this is the last sight they want to see when arriving at the airport during a pandemic. But it’s not as scary as one might think.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Before Delta passengers even arrive here at the terminal, they will have received text messages and emails informing them of the new realities of travel and the health protocols that Delta has put in place. And at check-in, they will have to acknowledge a health declaration and agree to follow Delta’s new rules regarding face coverings.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Those who need to check a bag or go to the ticket counter will immediately notice signage and reminders along the lines to help ensure social distancing from start to finish.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

It starts with a hand sanitizer station at the start of the line…

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Followed by floor placards and reminders to allow space from person to person…

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

And ends with plexiglass partitions at the ticket counter.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

These partitions are becoming the new normal at airports across the country. Delta has them installed at every ticket counter, help desk, and gate in the terminal.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Cleaners are also dispatched to proactively clean and wipe down self-serve kiosks.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

They’re also spaced to allow for distancing while hand sanitizer and wipe stations are located nearby. If passengers have no bags to check, using the Delta mobile application to retrieve a boarding pass can also be a safer alternative.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

And then it’s on to the gate, where the Transportation Security Administration has debuted new protocols like the use of antimicrobial bins, plexiglass booths for officers, and self-service ID readers.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Most of the security screening experience is out of Delta’s control but the airline does partner with CLEAR, a service that uses biometrics to speed up the ID check portion of the screening process and offers front of the line privileges for an annual fee.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Delta flyers who need wheelchair assistance will notice that the attendant is a Delta employee and not of a third-party company. Bringing that job in-house is one of the ways Delta can ensure its standards are being met.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

But for all the pre-security hustle and bustle, the interior of the terminal is still largely quiet with most non-essential businesses closed.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Delta’s pre-trip text reminder includes information about airport businesses for this reason.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Passengers on all airlines should consider bringing food and comfort items from home – as long as they meet TSA requirements – since the in-flight service has been a casualty of the pandemic.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Every seating area in the terminal also has seats blocked off for social distancing.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“Please allow some extra space” could be the airline’s new slogan as the phrase can be found on placards at nearly every stage of the airport experience.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

It’s typically every other seat that’s blocked and although the divide is not exactly six feet, face coverings help offer that extra layer of protection. The airport requires face coverings to be worn, except when eating or drinking.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

There’s also no shortage of open seats as the terminal isn’t at all near its normal passenger levels.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Premium flyers can also head to the open Delta Sky Club while they wait if they have access to it.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The gate area then mirrors the check-in area as Delta has installed plexiglass partitions at the counter…

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

More placards and signage…

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

And hand sanitizer stations.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Most Delta gates at JFK also have biometric boarding gates where passengers stand in front of a camera instead of handing their boarding pass to an agent. The service is typically available on international flights where biometric data is taken from a traveller’s passport.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

The physical additions are just the tip of the iceberg as communication also plays a vital role at the gate.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

New scripts that convey Delta’s commitment to health and safety have been created for agents to recite in an effort to further instill peace of mind about flying.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

And even before the announcement, screens above the gate area are constantly reminding passengers of all the measures being taken by Delta including blocking middle seats…

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

And requiring masks onboard.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Short videos also play giving passengers a visual of the updated cleaning procedures for the aircraft.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

And when passengers see this message…

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

This is what’s actually going on inside the plane.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderA cleaner fogging a Delta aircraft.

Most major airlines have adopted what is known as fogging into their cleaning procedures.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Read More: Delta, United, and American are ‘fogging’ their planes to make them safe for travel amid coronavirus – here’s what that means


It involves spraying a disinfectant using an electrostatic sprayer.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

A cleaner walks through the cabin spraying all surfaces, including inside the overhead bins,

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

The electrically-charged disinfectant then sticks to the seats and kills any pathogens.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Delta fogs aircraft before every single flight, in addition to physically wiping and cleaning surfaces.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderA cleaner fogging a Delta aircraft.

Once the pilots, flight attendants, and gate agents are all in agreement that the aircraft has been thoroughly cleaned, only then can boarding begin.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderA Delta Air Lines Boeing 757-200 aircraft.

Back in the terminal, Delta then boards the aircraft from back to front.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

It’s another social distancing measure that ensures passengers in the back don’t have to walk past a planeload of people to get to their seats.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Here’s where passengers on eligible flights would look into the camera for biometric boarding.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Boarding is done in rows of five to reduce jetway crowding but more placards have been installed as a precaution.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Passengers are given two items as they board the plane, a mask kit…

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

And Purell disinfecting wipes.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderOnboard a Delta Air Lines aircraft.

Inside the mask kit is a disposable mask, two single-use Purell packs, and an explainer on Delta’s new safety measures.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderOnboard a Delta Air Lines aircraft.

New scripts have also been made for flight attendants with more reminders about Delta’s safety protocols, as well as a gentle reminder that masks must be worn at all times, except when eating and drinking.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Once in the air, the in-flight service has also been augmented as flight attendants now pass around a snack bag with a water bottle, two snacks, a napkin, and more packets of Purell.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderOnboard a Delta Air Lines aircraft.

Small touches have also been introduced including the installation of hand sanitizer bottles outside each lavatory for easy access and extra cleaning supplies being stocked for flight attendants to use mid-flight if need be.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderOnboard a Delta Air Lines aircraft.

And then when it’s time to deplane, flight attendants remind passengers to remain seated until it’s time for their row to get up while messages on the seat-back screens tell passengers to “be mindful” when exiting the plane.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Delta’s key strategy here is in-your-face messaging to ensure peace of mind. At every turn, the airline is reminding passengers that what they’re doing is safe because all precautions have been taken.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderDelta’s Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

As most of the American public has still yet to return to the skies, the strategy will hopefully help ease them back onto aeroplanes.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderOnboard a Delta Air Lines aircraft.

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