Airlines are among some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and air travel will look a lot different going forward, said Gene Richards, director of aviation at Burlington International Airport.
“We want people to travel, but we want you to be safe more than anything,” he said.
Richards said fewer passengers are flying into and out of the airport – from the usual 15,000 or so each week to 800-1200.
“In airport terms that’s failure, it’s failure in terms of financials but it’s success in terms of society and what were trying to accomplish right now,” he said.
As states are beginning to reopen, Gov. Phil Scott set more regulations around air travel this week.
Anyone coming into the airport now must wear a face mask. Richards said he ordered 10,000 masks to make sure they are available throughout the airport, at both exits and in baggage claim.
“So when they come in, we want to make sure as they go in to be quarantined, they will have the tools to be successful,” Richards said.
All major airlines are now mandating that passengers wear masks during the flights. Others are adopting their own protocol. Frontier Airlines says it will check people’s temperatures at the gate and turn them away if they have a fever.
“We believe you are safer onboard Frontier, and most airlines for that matter, than in most enclosed buildings,” said Barry Biffle, CEO of Frontier Airlines. “We’re already seeing visiting friends and relatives, kind of the back-bone of our business, we’re starting to see that come back. But it’s at a very small level.”
With concerns around social distancing on the plane, some airlines have offered a benefit to ensure the middle seat will be empty. Richards says that shouldn’t be an issue at BTV and people shouldn’t have to worry about sitting next to someone.
“I think we had a Frontier flight with 40 people but that’s an aircraft that fits well over 100 people,” he said.
According to new guidance from the Dept. of Transportation, airlines are only required to provide a full refund if they cancel the flight.