BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — As the holidays approach, this may be the first time people are traveling since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
Experts with AAA Alabama experts say they expect 10-15% decrease in holiday travel this year compared to last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Thanksgiving is like Christmas. It’s one of those holidays where we have that emotional attachment to seeing family members we only see once or twice a year so I think people will put a little more emphasis on traveling for thanksgiving than some of the other holidays we’ve seen in 2020, but we still need to be careful,” said Clay Ingram, marketing director with AAA Alabama.
Meanwhile, officials at the Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport said they are preparing for more travelers during the holidays as they normally do, but expect to see that decrease as well.
Candace O’Neil with the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport said the airport is seeing approximately 41% of their normal passenger traffic for this of the year. She also said the airlines are seeing an increase in demand for holiday travel and have added more flights to the schedule for the holiday period.
Dr. Michael Saag, an infectious disease specialist at UAB, said travel can be safe if it’s done in a smart way.
“As long as they’re wearing a mask and keeping some degree of space on airplane, I think it’s safe to say that’s not a super high risk. On the other hand, when people go from one region of the country to the other, some of our areas in the country are having explosive outbreaks right now so that exposure is less likely to be on the airplane and more likely to be on the ground of wherever it is you’re going,” Saag said.
Saag said he is worried about the thanksgiving holiday because if we let our guard down, he said we could see our highest number of cases in January.
Saag also said taking a COVID-19 test before flying and visiting family isn’t helpful unless your test comes back positive. His advice if you are flying home is to be careful at the airport and when you get to your destination, stay home. Do not visit restaurants or bars as those pose a higher risk of contracting the virus.
“I think we need to take precaution and not gather in large groups together but rather have smaller groups, 5-7 people, maybe we can connect and gather in zoom or technology. It won’t be the same but we’re in unusual times,” Saag said when discussing what families should do for Thanksgiving this year.