Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the busiest airport in the world and a hub for Delta Air Lines, has quite a few empty seats on its flights these days because of the coronavirus.
“We used to have about 2,600 flights a day. Yesterday we had 873,” the airport’s General Manager John Selden said.
“Most of the flights are very easy to social distance on.”
That’s a dramatic drop in flight traffic, but those numbers can be a bit deceiving, according to Selden. The key transportation hub is still bringing in medical supplies for Georgia hospitals overwhelmed by virus patients and continues to support relief efforts, with cargo flights up about 20%.
“Amazon is busy; UPS is busy, FedEx is busy. We really still are an economic engine, but not at the level we were before,” he said, adding that all maintenance, operations and security staff are still working full-time.
“We’re still processing somewhere around 25,000 to 30,000 passengers a day, so our screenings are on board, our customs are on board, our customer service people, and all of the people that are normally here, are here.”
As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27, the airport industry received $10 billion in federal economic relief. Selden said a share of that money will come to Hartsfield-Jackson for salaries, capital programs and construction to keep the airport running.
That also means corralling passengers in TSA checkpoint lines so everyone is at least 6 feet apart, deep cleaning the building every night and constantly wiping down seats, escalators, trains and doorknobs.
Selden spoke with “Morning Edition” host Lisa Rayam about how relief efforts are keeping the airport busy during the pandemic.