Long lines of travelers were seen waiting to get through airport security at Charlotte Douglas International on Monday, with around half of the passengers wearing face coverings and very few practicing social distancing.
The travelers who were among a relatively small number nationwide who ventured out to the country’s airports on Memorial Day were angry about the long lines, which reportedly caused some of them to miss flights.
‘The line is wrapped and looping around the lobby for TSA,’ tweeted a reporter for WCNC-TV.
‘I’m told people are growing frustrated/missing flights.
Many of those in line to be screened by airport security were not wearing face coverings or observing social distancing guidelines
‘And I don’t see much social distancing at all.’
So far this Memorial Day weekend, some 600,000 Americans have flown by air as of Sunday afternoon, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
The TSA measures checkpoint travel numbers and compares them to the same figures at this time last year.
That number is way down from the same period last year, when nearly 5 million Americans travel by air through the first two days of the three-day weekend.
While the numbers appear stark, this weekend is a pandemic-era record in terms of screened travelers.
On April 14, the TSA recorded its lowest number of screened travelers – just shy of 88,000.
The TSA reported that in April, it screened just 6 per cent of the total number of passengers that went through security in the same month last year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hampered nationwide travel this holiday weekend – so much so that the American Automobile Association declined to release its annual travel forecast.
In the 20 years that AAA has published its reports, this is the first time ever that no such study will be released for Memorial Day weekend.
Long lines were seen at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Monday as passengers waited in line to be screened by TSA.
A sign at the airport in Charlotte urges travelers to maintain social distancing
The image above from inside an American Airlines flight that departed Charlotte on Monday shows a packed plane
‘Last year, 43 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day Weekend – the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes in 2000,’ said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel.
‘With social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low.’
Memorial Day 2009 currently holds the record for the lowest travel volume at nearly 31 million travelers, according to AAA.
That holiday weekend, which came toward the end of the Great Recession, 26.4 million Americans traveled by car, 2.1 million by plane and nearly 2 million by other forms of transportation, including trains, cruises, and other modes.
AAA expects to make travel projections for the late summer and fall, assuming states ease travel restrictions and businesses reopen.
Last week, a social media user posted this image of a flight that nearly full as it departed Charlotte
Some airlines are preparing to ramp up activity as we head into the summer and states accelerate the easing of lockdown restrictions.
Delta Air Lines is likely to increase capacity this summer by adding flights in June and July as US domestic travel slowly picks up amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, its chief executive officer said on Wednesday.
CEO Edward Bastian told Fox Business Network the airline’s 60 per cent cap on passenger load would help it maintain social distancing, while it also undertakes other efforts such as cleaning to boost customer confidence.
‘Today our load factor on Delta is somewhere about 35-40 per cent full,’ he said in an interview.
‘Once we get close to 60 per cent on an individual route that’ll be the trigger for us to add more planes into the system.’
Bastian said he expected to add about 200 flights in June, and probably another 200 or 300 flights in July.
Overall, US travel continues to be ‘slow,’ he said, adding that he expects it to recover in the next 12 to 18 months, although international travel may not restart more fully until 2021.
He said he expects the company’s costs to be down more than 50 per cent in the second quarter on year-over-year basis, and that with the help of US government assistance he sees ending June with a $14billion cash balance to help the airline ride out the pandemic.
Sources familiar with the airline’s strategy had told Reuters Delta’s plan to limit passengers to 60 per cent of its seats was key to its efforts to manage fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.
Southwest Airlines will continue to limit bookings on its flights through at least July to give passengers space between seats, CEO Gary Kelly told shareholders on Thursday, mirroring a plan by competitor Delta.
Airlines have been operating about 90 per cent fewer flights than normal but are gradually adding flights back to their schedules as demand begins picking up.
JetBlue and United Airlines also announced fresh safety measures on Wednesday aimed at restoring confidence in air travel.
JetBlue will continue blocking some seats on its aircraft through at least July 6 while checking crew members’ temperatures and stepping up aircraft cleaning with electrostatic aircraft fogging.
United will roll out Clorox’s electrostatic sprayers and disinfecting wipes at its Chicago and Denver hub airports, followed by other locations.
It will set up touchless kiosks and implement temperature checks for staff as well.