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What Would It Take to Get Oregonians Back on Airplanes?

“I’m not sure I want to give blood to get on an airplane.”

WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.

Curtis Robinhold is trying to imagine a world where Oregonians are again ready to pack into airplanes.

What would it take? Mask requirements for flight attendants? Temperature screenings at the security gate? Ripping out the middle seat in every aisle of coach?

"Taking off your shoes at TSA never made a whole lot of sense," Robinhold says. "But that really was a signal that said, 'Everyone's getting screened so you can enter with more confidence.' And I think we're going to need some of those steps going forward to get people back on planes."

Robinhold runs an empty airport. As executive director of the Port of Portland, he's watched Portland International Airport lose 95 percent of its travelers since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Polling released today shows Oregonians don't expect to safely board planes for at least five months.

Robinhold says the timeline will depend on public health and widespread testing. But he also knows it's about customer confidence. In an interview from his home with WW, he discussed how the port has managed to avoid layoffs, what it's like to see a fleet of planes sitting on the tarmac, and whether airlines deserve their federal bailout. (He doesn't give the answer you'd expect.)

He also discusses where he'd draw the line at a health test for boarding: "I'm not sure I want to give blood to get on an airplane."