RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The airport is usually the last place you want to be when traveling before the holidays, but in the year of COVID-19, those pre-thanksgiving day crowds we’re used to seeing were significantly thinned out.
According to a report from AAA, more people are staying home to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“84% of Virginians said they were staying home this thanksgiving and 40% said the reason they were staying home was because of COVID,” said AAA spokesperson Martha Meade.
Air travel has taken a huge hit. Over the past several years, Richmond International Airport experienced steady increases in passengers flown in the month of November. In 2017, RIC flew 316,622 passengers, 370,289 in 2018, and in 2019, the airport had its busiest November on record with over 370,000 passengers.
But November is on track to be much worse. In recent months due to the pandemic, passenger traffic has been off 65%. While the 2020 Thanksgiving period seems to be the busiest since mid-March, RIC will likely report a monthly decrease in the 55-65% range for November 2020.
“This was the first time I traveled on the so-called ‘busiest travel day of the year,’ but it wasn’t as bad as I thought,” said John Neuenswanber.
Neuenswanber made the trip from Salt Lake City, Utah to see his son who lives in Virginia.
“The Salt Lake City airport was a lot busier than it was here in Richmond, and Atlanta was pretty busy,” said Neuenswanber. “With my job and my family, things just have to move on, but we are taking the precautions I do think it’s serious.”
Ralph Ingriola and his wife also braved a flight from Texas.
“Well, the main reason is it’s been a year since we’ve seen our 8-year-old granddaughter,” said Ingriola. “San Antonio wasn’t that busy, our connecting flight in Charlotte was really busy, but it wasn’t too bad. We just kept our distance from everybody, kept our mask on, and sanitized a lot.”
But while travel has been crippled on the airways you should still expect more traffic on the roadways.
Virginia state police will be increasing its visibility and traffic enforcement between midnight Nov. 25 and midnight on Nov. 29.
“The vast majority of people tell us they are going to be traveling by car even though that number is going to be much lower than in years past,” said Meade. “Those who were still trying to decide whether to go or not felt that car gave them much more control over their environment from a safety standpoint it also allowed them to make that last-minute decision to travel.”
If you do plan on traveling by car, AAA says it’s best to plan ahead. They say you’d avoid making stops as that will keep you from being in contact with other people and when you do have to make a stop make sure you have plenty of personal protective equipment to help keep you safe.
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