CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Following a move by Delta and United, American Airlines started Monday, May 11 requiring all passengers to wear a face covering onboard flights. Some agree with the new protocol while others say they don't see the need.
But how many people are actually flying? And, do they think it's enough protection when they're already in close quarters?
Airports ailing from the ongoing pandemic remain abnormally quiet. For the most part, passengers that are flowing through Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT) say “air” travel was a must.
“We were going to originally drive, but change of plans,” says C.J. Matthews, who was traveling with his mother and brother. “Some of our stuff got cancelled.”
The Matthews were headed to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Chris Gittins, of the Tampa area, was just passing through. “I have to travel because my dad's having surgery in Charlottesville, Virginia,” Gittins says.
Despite COVID-19's continued community spread, 12 or more hours in a car made flying an easy decision they say.
“Did I think about driving at all,” Gittins asked humorously. “Absolutely not. I really didn't. It's going to be faster travel and we just got to stay safe,” Matthews adds.
They just have slightly different feelings about airlines including American, Southwest, and Spirit all requiring, as of Monday, passengers to wear face coverings onboard all flights. “I think it's a good safety precaution,” Matthews says. “It's definitely needed, because some people just don't care, and disregard it and that's how it spreads more.”
But Gittins says if it were not for the requirement, he likely would not be wearing a mask. “For me personally, of course it's a inconvenience,” he says. “You got to wear a mask, you don't like to do so. But, as long as the person sitting beside or behind me feels safe, then I'm all about it.”
It appears more people are beginning to fly. Although overall passenger traffic is down 95 percent compared to this same time last year, airports across the country and right here in North Carolina are reporting a slight uptick in TSA screenings in the last two weeks.
CLT, Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTI), and Wilmington International Airport (ILM) on the coast tell Spectrum News they are still calculating April's airport activity. Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), however, reports nearly 1,391 passengers were screened Thursday, May 7, the highest level of not just that week, but also since March 29.
“We carry hand sanitizer,” Matthews explains. “Nothing's really been too drastic this far.”
As airlines resume some sort of normal service across Asia and in Europe and states here in the U.S. begin phases of reopening, passengers say they will do what makes them the most comfortable.
“I live in Florida, so they just reopened everything last week,” Gittins says. "And, they're getting ready to slide into Phase 2.”
It's clear regaining some sort of normal level of air travel will be a delicate balancing act. “
We're out and about and we're dealing with a pandemic that's hurting a lot of people right now,” Gittins says.
“Make sure you stay safe and don't let your guard down at any time,” Matthews adds.
ILM officials say they expect their traffic numbers to be updated this week. PTI says theirs will be released at this month's board meeting. CLT says they are still working on their April activity report.