Airlines still struggling to fill seats as pandemic continues

Updated: Jul. 29, 2020 at 7:19 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - It's summer and normally the airports are packed with travelers, but COVID-19 has many reluctant to fly.

Airline industry officials estimate it will be 2024 before travel returns to pre-pandemic levels.

"It's a good time to kind of relax and maybe take your mind off the pandemic a little bit," said Jeremy White before boarding a flight in Jackson.

White is from Yazoo City. Wednesday he and family were flying from Jackson Medgar Wiley Evers International to Wyoming to tour Yellow Stone.

He was not apprehensive about flying.

"It is my first time flying since the COVID here in the U.S.," said White. "I feel perfectly safe. We're following guidelines and I know the airports are as well, and I feel perfectly safe. I have no worries at all".

"This time last year, passenger boarding numbers were as many as 1,400 per day, whereas today, those numbers are in the 450-550 daily range," said Jackson Municipal Airport Authority Public Information Officer L. Sherie Dean.

The airport spokeswoman said in April traffic was down 96%.

"During that month, Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (JAN) flight frequencies were as low as four daily flights a day or down 85%," said Dean. "Since then, flights have increased up 200% with 11 or 12 daily flights".

One Los Angeles passenger said she was nervous during her flight to Jackson. She feels better after purchasing the face shield she was wearing.

"Coming in I wore an N95 and then I got this while I was here and I love it," said the traveler. "It is the best, and then I've got my mask. So I'm as covered as I can be".

According to the International Air Travel Association national traffic was down 86.5 percent from June of last year. The industry practically shut down in April. Traffic was down 94.1 percent from April 2019.

Wednesday Eve Weiss was flying back to Charlotte after visiting her grandparents and family in Jackson.

"They weren't really serving or anything and so our masks were on the whole time, and we really didn't interact with anyone. So we also like wiped down our table things for us," said Weiss.

Industry officials said an upturn in travel has been stopped by the recent upsurge in Coronavirus cases in a number of states.

Jackson airport officials said In August, JAN will be back up to 13 flights per day from 26 a day in the 1st quarter of 2020. They are seeing steady growth during these last two months.

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