MORRISVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – As the holiday weekend approaches, RDU International Airport officials expect an increase of travelers – many for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
RDU has seen modest but steady growth in passenger traffic since Memorial Day. Airport officials say for many, the experience will look different.
“You’ll see floor decals and seat covers all to remind people about social distancing. You’ll also see plexiglass shields between ticket agents and customers,” said RDU Director of Media Relations, Stephanie Hawco.
Masks are required in the airport and on most flights to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Hawco said if a passenger forgets their mask, RDU is giving out individually wrapped packages of masks.
“Just go to the information desk. We’ll be happy to give you a mask you can use throughout your journey,” said Hawco.
Hand sanitizing stations are set up throughout the airport, and new TSA regulations allow travelers to bring up to a 12-ounce container of hand sanitizer in their carry-on bag.
Another change, instead of handing their boarding pass to a TSA officer or gate agent, passengers should place it on the boarding pass reader to reduce the potential for cross-contamination.
“We are putting every health and safety precaution that we can in place to make sure people fly with confidence. When people get into the terminal and they see the hand sanitizers, they see the cleaning, they see all the signage, they see social distancing in place, I think they are going to feel like this is a good experience,” said Hawco.
This week, RDU reintroduced several routes, including direct flights to St. Louis, San Juan, and Tampa.
Before COVID-19, there were 57 non-stop destinations and five international flights offered from RDU.
Since the pandemic, RDU offers 27 non-stop destinations and no international flights.
The experience onboard a flight is different as well, said Hawco.
“There’s a lot of requirements among the airlines now. Most require face masks, but there are some other requirements in place,” she said.
Airlines like JetBlue and Delta implemented back to front boarding, and spaced out seating to maintain social distancing.
Others like United are allowing passengers to switch flights if the plane becomes fairly full with no change fee.
According to United’s website, it will contact passengers 24 hours before their departure.
Hawco recommends travelers check with their specific airlines about what they require.
She said although air travel is picking back up, some are still canceled flights.
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