Airlines loosening social distancing guidelines as July 4 nears

Local News

RICHMOND, Va. – (WRIC) — Some airlines have announced their plans to relax social distancing guidelines ahead of one of the year’s busiest traveling weekend.

That’s good news for the Richmond International Airport (RIC), as more people are expected to arrive and depart for the July 4 weekend – despite the continuing threat of COVID-19. Troy Bell, a spokesperson for the Richmond Airport, told 8News, “Like passenger traffic at airports across the country, passenger traffic has decreased at RIC versus the same period a year ago.”

8News reported in April that Richmond International saw a 96 percent drop in passenger traffic. In the month of March, Bell says airport traffic was down 50 percent.

RELATED: Richmond International Airport has 96% drop in passenger traffic in April

With many states reopening, Bell expects to see passenger improvements for the month of July compared to May and June.​

Daniel Rodriquez recently returned from Miami and told 8News about his flight experience.

“It’s kind of safe. I didn’t see nothing unusual that the airline didn’t take care (of). They were very aware of everything,” Rodriquez.​ said.

According to Airlines for America, major carriers will now require passengers to answer a series of health questions when they check into flights. They may ask if passengers have had a temperature or close contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus.​

For Mahat Shah, who flew into Richmond from Houston, she told 8News she’s taking her own preventative measures.​

“I have little nieces and nephews so I wanted to be extra careful coming from a hot spot,” Shah said. “I just wanted to be extra careful with hand sanitizer and wipes.”​

Some airlines are loosening social distancing guidelines as many states progress in the reopening phase. All seats are open for United Airlines and on Wednesday, July 1, American Airlines will open all seats. Another major airline, Delta, says they will continue to keep their middle seats open at least until September. 

“If everyone had an aisle to themselves that would be even better, but other than that I think they’re doing what they can, but it’s not enough,” Shah said. ​

8News asked both Rodriquez and Shah if they personally felt like it was safe to fly. Their reactions were mixed. 

“Yeah, I believe so,” Rodriquez answered.

“I feel like, do it, if it’s really, really necessary,” Shah cautioned. “But if you can avoid it, avoid it.”

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