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Is the air travel industry taking off again?

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Published: Jun. 12, 2020 at 4:34 PM EDT
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Vermont is beginning to turn the spigot on tourism and out of state travel but trips relying on air travel are still not really taking off. Our Kevin Gaiss looks at how the air travel industry is faring and what changes you can expect the next time you book a flight.

"You gotta do what you gotta do and not let fear drive you and not let you do things," said Tara Troisi, a traveler.

The travel industry is one of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy. In March, when stay-at-home orders came down, people were forced to postpone or cancel trips.

"I am going to visit family, haven't seen them in a long time now with the virus that's going around," Troisi said.

According to TSA screenings, the number of flyers nationwide bottomed out in mid-April with just 87,000 taking to the skies, a 96% drop from the previous year.

Ridership is slowing building back up. Last Sunday, more than 440,000 people flew in America-- an improvement but still 84% fewer passengers than last year in early June.

Experts say Vermont is mirroring that trend.

"We basically went to a standstill at the end of March, refunded more than we sold in the month of April, May, June," said Scott Milne, the president of Milne Travel. "It started to turn around in the middle of May and we saw what sounded like tremendous increases."

Whether the flight is for business or personal reasons, the Burlington International Airport is ready to have its travelers back.

"Our numbers are growing and we anticipate as we get into July we have seen every airline will be overnighting again," said Gene Richards of the Burlington International Airport.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the typical week at the Burlington airport would see 13,000 travelers. In recent weeks, that number has dwindled down to as few as 800. But people are slowly beginning to return to air travel.

"Every week it is progressing," Richards said. "People are feeling comfortable, airline service and travel has never been cleaner than it is today."

Richards says Burlington International has always been clean, but now they're taking that to a new level, cleaning the entire airport three to four times a day and wiping down surfaces all the time.

And travelers are being asked to do their part.

"When you enter the airport, you must have a face mask," Richards said. "We actually just got an order of 68,000 of them to supplement if someone forgot one or something to try to keep them at the door... So, we do have some in case people don't have them."

A few changes so people feel safe to take to the skies again.

"We know that the desire is there from the traveling public," Richards said. "I hear it all the time, is it safe to travel? I say it is safe to travel. It's very safe to travel."

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