By LAURA WEICK A typical summer morning at T.F .Green Airport would be bustling with people departing for vacations or family visits, with tourists arriving for the summer in Rhode Island. But on the morning of Wednesday, June 24, the state's flagship
A typical summer morning at T.F .Green Airport would be bustling with people departing for vacations or family visits, with tourists arriving for the summer in Rhode Island. But on the morning of Wednesday, June 24, the state’s flagship airport was near empty.
Although Rhode Island has seen a gradual decline in new COVID-19 cases and deaths, T.F. Green Airport has seen a slight increase in passengers and flights since reopening Rhode Island began.
According to John Goodman, director of media and public relations for the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, an average of 16 flights depart from T.F. Green per day this month, compared to an average of 59 flights in June 2019. TSA data shows that passenger volume this month is only at about 20 percent of last June’s levels. Goodman says that T.F. Green’s passenger volume has matched this national average. This figure is an increase from the 5 percent passenger volume low in April, according to Goodman.
Goodman said that some potential flyers may still be cautious about flying, especially when some states and countries are seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases.
“In the past week the number of passengers departing T.F. Green Airport exceeded an average of 1,000 per day for the first time since COVID-19 ‘stay at home’ orders were lifted,” Goodman said. “For comparison, at this time last year T.F. Green Airport had average daily enplanements of 5,595. These figures approaching 20 percent of previous volume are comparable to trends seen at other airports according to national TSA data, however we are mindful that a return to 2019 passenger volume will take many years, as both the economic and health impacts of COVID-19 have an ongoing effect on the travel and tourism industries.”
In order to curb potential spread of COVID-19, T.F. Green has implemented increased sanitation in its terminals.
“T.F. Green Airport cleaning crews continue enhanced sanitizing protocols, utilizing EPA and CDC approved hospital grade disinfectants, electrostatic sprayers and automated cleaning technology to efficiently and effectively sanitize escalator railings and other high touch areas throughout the terminal,” the airport wrote in multiple press releases. “Passengers are also being encouraged to check with individual airline policies regarding COVID-19 policies, including facemask requirements.”
Airlines have individual protocols regarding social distancing. For example, Frontier Airlines, which just resumed flights last week after suspending service in April, will not allow passengers or crew members with temperatures of 100.4 degrees or higher to fly. Southwest Airlines, which also flies out of T.F. Green, is leaving all middle seats open in order to keep customers distanced.
“Different airlines have different policies, but most people are wearing masks,” Goodman said.
The increase, no matter how gradual, is a start for airlines that are returning to the airport after suspending operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. JetBlue and Frontier Airlines are both reinstating service at T.F. Green Airport this summer, with Florida as a key destination, despite recent surges in COVID-19 cases there.
Frontier Airlines returned to Rhode Island last week after a two-month hiatus due to decline in passengers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline has since began offering flights to Orlando, Florida three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Frontier Airlines also plans to resume service to Fort Myers and Tampa four times a week by Nov. 13. They also hope to make departures to Orlando daily by that deadline.
Frontier also announced that the airline will begin a nonstop route to Miami on December 17 with five weekly flights once a day, except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Miami has not had nonstop service from T.F. Green Airport since April 2019, according to the airline’s press release.
Just like Frontier Airlines, JetBlue suspended flights to T.F. Green in April due to low passenger traffic. However, JetBlue Airways will reinstate service on July 2 with four day a week service to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They also plan to add two new routes from T.F. Green Airport to Tampa and Fort Myers in October, with plans to reinstate routes to Orlando and West Palm Beach in August. JetBlue said in the press release they were “prioritizing regions of the country where leisure travel is showing signs of strength”
“We’re pleased that our partners in the airline industry are responding to increased customer demand for additional travel opportunities at T.F. Green Airport, but we recognize that a recovery to 2019 passenger levels will be a long process tied closely to our nation’s ability to recover from the many impacts of COVID-19,” Iftikhar Ahmad, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation said regarding the new routes.