Despite travel warnings, Richmond International Airport sees increase in booked flights

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With the Thanksgiving holiday quickly approaching, many people are traveling to visit loved ones, despite the ongoing pandemic. Central Virginians are no exception, the Richmond International Airport is seeing a bump in passenger traffic.

More travelers are taking flights right now than at any other time throughout the pandemic, according to airport spokesperson Troy Bell.

Health officials with the Centers for Disease Control have pleaded with Americans to not travel for thanksgiving or spend the holiday with people from outside of their household.

Coronavirus cases across the country are surging–Virginia included.

Newlyweds, Ben Harrison and River Harrison arrived to RIC late Saturday night to pick up their grandmother, traveling from Salem, Oregon.

“We’ve been married for three and a half months, and our grandmother hasn’t seen us since the wedding day. So, we surprised her with some plane tickets and had her fly out here. It’s important to spend Thanksgiving–I don’t think a virus should let you stop you from seeing your own family, ” Ben Harrison said.

Once she arrived, grandmother, Earnestine Baker said she did not feel traveling home for the holiday was a risk.

“Everything was too safe, you know? If there had been… there was nobody was sick. You can most generally tell when people are sick–sneezing, coughing, there was none of that,” Baker said.

Ben and River Harrison embrace Earnestine Baker, grandmother, after she arrived to the Richmond International Airport from Salem, Oregon, Friday night.

The 7-day moving average for COVID-19 cases in Virginia is currently 2,126 and shows no sign off slowing down. The average has been spiking upwards since Nov. 15 and fairly steadily climbing up since late October.

With cases now at an all time high, compared to the rest of the pandemic, so is airplane travel. Bell said passenger volume at RIC has been down 65% over the last few months, and the holiday boost will change that figure.

Airport taxi driver, Amjad Ahmad said traffic at the airport started picking up about two weeks ago. He’s been talking with his customers about coronavirus and safety as they travel to and from the airport.

“They say, ‘you know it doesn’t bother me. You have to spend the holiday with the family, you know?’” Ahmad said.

Ahmad said many travelers have family or parents coming to the airport to pick them up.

Business today does not come close to this time last year, however, the airport is still preparing to open additional space in parking decks to accommodate more departures.

Inside terminals, travelers are met with reminders to keep away from others before taking flight. Certain chairs are blocked off to promote social distancing while waiting for a flight.

While some have already booked flights, many are still juggling with whether or not they should take a chance and visit family or stick this Thanksgiving out until the pandemic passed.

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