Travel Updates: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Information for travelers about Coronavirus
An outbreak of a respiratory disease caused by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) was first detected in China and has now been detected in more than 125 countries, including the United States. The federal government has declared a public health emergency for the U.S. and established a task force dedicated to addressing this rapidly evolving situation. At this time, most people in the United States have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily in airplanes and the risk of infection while traveling by air is low. CDC suggests that travelers avoid contact with sick passengers and wash their hands often. Symptoms may appear 2 – 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough and shortness of breath. CDC recently recommended that individuals wear a cloth mask in public settings, particularly where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
How you can stay healthy
Public health experts recommend good personal hygiene as the best way to prevent illness, including:
- Washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throwing the tissue in the trash and washing your hands.
- Avoiding contact with people who are sick and staying home when you are sick.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
RDU is working with public health officials at the local, state and federal levels, along with Airports Council International, the trade association for airports around the country, on best practices associated with the coronavirus. We are tracking the latest information from public health experts and continue to stay apprised of the latest developments regarding the spread of the virus.
Travel advisories are in place for countries experiencing outbreaks of the coronavirus. If you are planning to travel, check with your airline with any questions about your itinerary. Airline contact information and travel alerts can be found via the “Resources” section of this page.
For the week ending Sunday, May 31st, TSA reported screening 16,188 departing passengers at RDU – up 14.5% from the previous week and down 88.6% from the same week in 2019. This data continues a positive passenger growth trend after declines of nearly 97% in mid-April.
Airlines continue to make adjustments to their schedules, with the number of available seats down 80% compared to June 2019 and nearly 50% for July. RDU’s airline partners have not made significant adjustments to their August and beyond schedules.
RDU staff will continue to monitor airline schedules and passenger trends, and will release the May 2020 passenger traffic total at the June 18 board meeting.
RDU experienced its busiest week since the global pandemic devastated air travel in March, with the largest number of passengers traveling through the airport on Memorial Day.
TSA reported screening 14,921 passengers at RDU for the week ending May 26th, a 30% increase over the previous week and a 90% decline versus the same week in 2019. TSA screened 2,778 departing passengers on Memorial Day, which was the highest screened passenger count at RDU since March 24th.
Although RDU’s passenger counts remain significantly below 2019 levels, the airport continues to see incremental growth on a weekly basis. Traffic at RDU bottomed out in mid-April at 96.5% below 2019 levels. Since then, RDU traffic has steadily increased to 90% below pre-COVID levels.
In June, airlines are scheduled to fly 21% of the capacity flown in June 2019 and July schedules call for 62% of 2019 capacity. August remains comparable to 2019, but airlines continue to make adjustments to their short terms schedules.
Airlines added 431 additional domestic departures to the June schedule last week, suggesting that more people are booking flights than previously expected. RDU staff will continue to monitor these and other trends to determine their overall impact to RDU’s 2020 passenger forecast.
TSA screened nearly 11,000 departing passengers at RDU during the seven-day period ending May 15, a 93% decline compared to the same time period in 2019.
Although passenger traffic at RDU remains more than 90% below 2019 levels, it has increased slightly over the last month. The small but gradual increase in travel demand is consistent with what has been reported by other U.S. airports.
RDU will report April 2020 total passenger numbers at the board meeting next Thursday. Airlines have cut their May and June flight schedules by 82.9% and 75.7%, respectively when compared to 2019, with more cuts anticipated. These lower levels of service are likely to continue until passenger demand requires an increase in the number of daily scheduled flights.
RDU will continue to monitor airline schedules and passenger traffic. The next air service update will be posted Tuesday, May 26.
TSA at RDU screened 8,168 passengers during the week ending May 7 – down 94.5 percent from the same week last year. Thursday, May 7 represented the highest screened passenger traffic level for the week, at 1,391 screened passengers. That day also marked RDU’s highest screened passenger total since March 29th.
Consistent with airports across the country, RDU experienced a slight uptick in traffic during the past two weeks, though passenger levels remain around 95 percent down year over year.
For the week, RDU averaged 38 daily departures – down from an average of 218 for the same week a year ago. Airlines reduced capacity, or the number of total seats, by 84 percent year-over-year by limiting the number of flights and downsizing aircraft. The schedule and capacity reductions allow RDU’s airline partners to temporarily right-size their operations for current demand levels. As a result, cancellations of scheduled departures from RDU were dramatically reduced – from a peak level of approximately 180 cancelled arrivals and departures in late March to zero as of May 7.
RDU staff will continue to monitor passenger and airline schedule data, and will provide weekly updates on this page as COVID-19 impacts to airline passenger traffic continue.
The number of passengers screened by TSA in April averaged 95.8% below April 2019. For the seven day period ending April 30, RDU averaged a year-over-year screened passenger decline of 95.5%, down slightly from 96.3% the week before.
RDU’s airline partners continue to make week-to-week adjustments to their near-term schedules in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on consumer demand for airline travel. The number of airplane seats available is scheduled to be down 80% for the month of May versus the same month last year. Airlines are also beginning to make cuts to their June schedules. RDU’s June capacity is 22% below June 2019 and airlines are expected to make additional reductions this week.
RDU staff will continue to monitor a variety of information sources to track the progress of passenger levels at the airport and provide updates to this page on a weekly basis.
Airlines Take New Steps to Protect Passengers’ Health
Airlines at RDU are taking steps to keep passengers healthy when they fly, including enhancing their cleaning procedures on planes and in airports and encouraging social distancing. A few airlines have recently announced additional safety measures such as requiring flights crews to wear masks and distributing masks to passengers. New safety measures recently announced by the airlines include:
- Beginning May 1, American Airlines will require flight attendants to wear masks and will offer personal protective equipment to customers.
- Starting May 11, the airline will also require passengers to wear face coverings.
- The airline also announced it will begin enhanced cleaning procedures in areas such as tray tables, seatbelt buckles, armrests, window shades, seatback screens, doors and overhead bin handles.
- In early May, American will begin distributing sanitizing wipes or gels and face masks to customers.
- Beginning this week, Delta is requiring all of its employees and partners to wear masks or face coverings when they are unable to maintain a distance of least six feet between others.
- Effective May 4, Delta will require all customers to wear a face mask or appropriate face covering when traveling. Face coverings will be required starting in the check-in lobby and across Delta touchpoints including Delta Sky Clubs, boarding gate areas, jet bridges and on board the aircraft for the duration of the flight – except during meal service. The airline encourages customers to bring their own face covering, but will make them available for customers who need them. People unable to keep a face covering in place, including children, are exempt.
- Beginning May 8, the airline will require all passengers to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth at the airline’s ticket counters, gate areas and onboard Frontier aircraft. Frontier has required face coverings for flight crews since April 13.
- Earlier this month, Frontier implemented a health acknowledgement program that passengers must complete via the company’s website or mobile app prior to check-in.
- Frontier also introduced a fogging disinfectant to its aircraft cleaning and sanitation protocols. The fogging includes virtually every surface in the passenger cabin. Planes are wiped down every night with additional disinfectant, as well.
- Beginning June 1, Frontier will implement temperature screenings for all passengers and team members prior to boarding flights. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will be denied boarding.
- Beginning May 4, all Jet Blue customers will be required to wear a face covering during travel. The airline already requires all crewmembers to wear face coverings while working.
- The new policy will require customers to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth throughout their journey, including during check-in, boarding, while in flight and when exiting the plane.
- Since late March, JetBlue has limited the number of seats available for sale on most flights, allowing the airline to provide additional space between individuals who are not traveling together.
- Beginning May 4, United will make face masks available to customers. United was the first major U.S. airline to require that all flight attendants wear a face covering or mask to help protect themselves and customers on board the aircraft.
- Through May 31, United and United Express is limiting seat selections in all cabins, so customers won’t be able to select seats next to each other or middle seats where available. They are also alternating window and aisle seats when seats are in pairs.
- Starting May 11, all passengers will be required to wear masks. The airline encourages passengers to bring their own hand sanitizer and masks, and to wear your mask while traveling. Passengers who don’t have a mask will be provided with one.
- Through June, Southwest is limiting the number of people on board each flight so there will be no need for the middle seat to be occupied.
- The airline is changing its boarding process. Passengers will board in groups of 10 and only on one side of the boarding poles to help customers spread out.
- Effective May 11, all passengers will be required to wear masks or face coverings over the nose and mouth to align with CDC recommendations about cloth face coverings in public settings. The airline will also require customer-facing employees to wear face coverings.
- Customers will be expected to bring their own face coverings and will be required to wear them at the airport and throughout the flight. Children who are not able to maintain a face covering are exempt from this requirement. The policy is temporary and updates will be issued as the situation evolves.