Holiday weekend could be busy for travelers despite pandemic

Local News

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Air travel remains down due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you’ll breeze through the airport this holiday weekend.

According to Airlines for America, airports across the country are seeing 80% fewer travelers now compared to this time last year. However, that’s much better numbers than they saw in late April, when passenger volumes were down 96%.

The trends are similar in Birmingham. Candace O’Neil, spokesperson for the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, said the airport had about 30,000 departing flights in June, more than the combined numbers from April and May. And with the enduring popularity of holiday travel, you shouldn’t be surprised to see a decent-sized crowd this weekend. You should also expect to continue seeing enhanced cleaning measures.

“Even at the TSA checkpoint they’re cleaning the bins, and they’re also allowing travelers to scan their own boarding pass just to limit the physical contact between passengers,” O’Neil said.

The airport is using the same cleaning measures it has throughout the pandemic, including offering hand sanitizing stations. O’Neil said airlines are implementing social distancing measures as best they can, with some leaving middle seats open.

“I would just encourage travelers to research what the airline is doing ahead of time,” she said. “They’ve all shared information about the air filtering on the aircraft and just all the different cleaning procedures they’re doing just to ensure a safe journey throughout the entire trip.”

Meanwhile, drivers should prepare for plenty of holiday traffic despite the pandemic. Gary Smith, a construction engineer with the Alabama Department of Transportation, said he expects to see more cars on the highways this weekend. But the organization is doing its best to alleviate congestion. Smith said no scheduled lane closures will be allowed from lunchtime Friday to midnight Sunday night.

“So we just encourage everybody to take their time, pay attention to the signs and drive safely during the holiday period,” Smith said.


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