ILM bookings down 50 percent for Thanksgiving travel

Experts advise people not to travel for Thanksgiving

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - CDC and local experts alike are pleading for people to reconsider their travel plans this Thanksgiving.

Experts are concerned about the coronavirus being transmitted to different areas and about outbreaks tied to transportation hubs themselves.

If you do make the decision to travel this year, ILM has several safety measures in place.

The workflow is the same really, with a renewed emphasis on sanitizing and a few new additions to the airport.

Workers at the airport took advantage of the lack of passengers and knocked out some major projects: the parking lots were upgraded, new ticket counters revealed and major progress was made with the terminal expansion project. The third TSA lane is also open, allowing more people to get through the security line quicker.

When you walk inside, you’ll see acrylic barriers, floor stickers for people to stand on, signs reminding people of the 3 w’s, hand sanitizer stations and more frequent cleaning.

TSA officers are wiping down lanes between groups of customers and sanitizing their gloved hands after touching bags. TSA is also allowing one oversize liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags and allowing people to get through security with state issued IDs that expired on or after March 1, 2020 if you were unable to renew your license.

This is normally crunch time for the airport, but this year leaders say they know they’ll be seeing significantly fewer passengers.

“Historically, Thanksgiving is the single busiest holiday travel day of the year because it’s so condensed. Usually the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest and the Sunday after. This year of course we’re seeing a big reduction in travel, obviously do the COVID crisis, and we’re probably at about 50 percent of the bookings this year than we were last year,” said Gary Broughton, Deputy Director of ILM.

While there are fewer passengers coming through, the airlines are bringing back more flights. It’s one metric airports around the country are thrilled to see bouncing back.

“Flights were reduced at the onset of this global pandemic, so it was a huge reduction in service that has started to return. American Airlines is almost back to their pre-COVID levels as far as the number of flights, as is Delta and United,” said Broughton.

The job of the airport is to make sure surfaces are clean and passengers are reminded to wear a mask and keep their distance. ILM airport employees don’t screen passengers or ask about their symptoms.

Things are also simpler at the airport because North Carolina has no travel restrictions.

If you’re leaving the state or country you should pay attention to messages from your airline about testing and quarantine measures to make sure you’re complying with their rules.

The airport does require face coverings and masks, but the enforcement of those rules lands more on the airlines.

“The airlines take that step, so it kind of makes our job easier because the airlines won’t let you on without a mask. So we don’t necessarily have to follow people around if we see a passenger without a mask. We do approach them and ask them to wear their mask, but we certainly don’t deny them access to the airport,” said Broughton.

All airlines require masks for anyone older than two years old. If you don’t follow the rules, depending on the airline, you may be refused passage and could also lose your travel privileges.

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