HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Huntsville International Airport officials say about 80% of all the employees who work there are wearing face masks. Which means most employees that passengers come in contact with will have a face covering.
That isn’t the only visible effect of the COVID-19 pandemic at the airport. There are also fewer planes on the tarmac.
Empty ticket counters and no lines at TSA; there’s something missing at Huntsville International Airport: passengers.
“We’re only seeing about 5% of our normal traffic, so its a ghost town,” said Jana Kuner, Huntsville International Airport Public Relations Manager. She says those numbers come from the amount of people going through TSA screenings.
Silver Airways and Frontier Airlines asked for service exemptions at Huntsville International.
Silver Airways filed it’s second exception request April 30th, asking to reduce its flights for Huntsville International through July 31st.
The US Department of Transportation has not responded to that request.
Frontier’s request sought exemption from 33 different airports, including Huntsville’s.
While DOT did grant exemptions for some of the airports on the list, the request for Huntsville was denied.
“We’re all just trying to work together to reduce the frequency potentially, you don’t want planes that have no passengers on them. That doesn’t make sense. But you also want to continue to have this air transportation network that we all rely on to just live our lives everyday. And so there’s a middle ground there,” Kuner said.
She says it is not concerning to see these two airlines file for service exemptions.
“No I think that this is something that is happening in communities across the country and it’s no different here in Huntsville,” Kuner said.
She also pointed out the airport is still keeping all 10 of its nonstop routes.
“And because Atlanta is still operating, Huntsville is still pretty much nonstop to anywhere in the world,” she said.
Huntsville International has received funds through the CARES Act to continue operations.
“Those fund here are being for payroll, to continue our regular operating expenses, and to pay off debt,” Kuner said.
Kuner says Huntsville International has not laid off or furloughed any employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Safety is also a daily consideration
The president of the Association of Flight Attendants, a union with airlines including United, Silver, and Frontier, sent a letter to the US Department of Transportation and Secretary of Health, asking them to encourage the public to end leisure travel until we flatten the curve.
Kuner says the airport is following White House guidelines.
“In phase one it says we are to minimize non essential travel, and we here in Alabama considered phase one. So, it’s minimizing non essential travel, not banning it completely,” she said.
Kuner says eventually all employees who work at Huntsville International could potentially be required to wear masks. And in the coming days all of the airlines that fly out of the airport will ask passengers to wear masks.
What is the future of the air travel industry? When will Huntsville International begin seeing more demand? The answers to those questions remain up in the air.