Despite health warnings, local airports see increase in traffic

Published: Nov. 26, 2020 at 12:48 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - At Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional airport this week, it’s been wheels up, despite COVID-19. Airport spokesman Brad Boettcher said last Friday alone, more than 600 people flew out of Roanoke, “which is one of our busiest days since the pandemic hit.”

In a difficult year, this fall has been a standout, according to Boettcher. Traffic at ROA is only down 40% from where it was twelve months ago. That might sound like a lot, but compare that to the 97% decrease in traffic just after the pandemic hit.

“That was a nice bump for us,” said Boettcher.

It’s the same story at Lynchburg Regional Airport, where air travel is also down about 40% compared to this time last year. While it is a drop, the decrease puts LYH on par with the number of travelers the airport saw just three years ago.

Both airports stress that as travel has increased, so have safety measures.

“What we’ve done is increased frequency of cleaning, but the protocols we’ve had in place were solid to begin with,” said Boettcher.

That includes wiping down high-touch surfaces, and using electrostatic sprayers, similar to what’s being done in many area schools.

“We’re really lucky my brother-in-law is an epidemiologist, and we implemented some advanced cleaning protocols at that time,” said Boettcher. “They’ve been in place going on eight months at this point.”

Despite the increase in travel, the CDC’s advice for travelers remains the same. On its website, the agency posted guidance that reads “postposing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

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