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Memphis International Airport sees passenger decrease during coronavirus pandemic

Updated: Mar. 13, 2020 at 6:03 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Over the last year, the Memphis International Airport has seen some of its highest passenger volumes. That’s not the case this spring break.

It’s clear, fewer people are traveling. Packed ticketing and security lines are what you saw during the Friday before local school districts’ fall break last year. At the time, Memphis International Airport officials expected similar numbers come spring break.

In reality, after concerns over the COVID-19 virus took over, there was barely a line the Friday before districts’ Spring Break this year.

“[Thursday] we screened about 6,400 passengers and employees and that’s down about 21% from this time last year,” MEM Spokesperson Glen Thomas said.

Thomas said crews expected nearly 9,000 passengers the Thursday before spring break 2020. He believes the lack of passengers is likely from the concerns over COVID-19 cases.

“Certainly it’s safe to assume they are canceling their travel,” Thomas said.

“Obviously there's a risk,” Traveler Naomi Drake said. “But if I'm smart and wash my hands I'll be okay.”

As for traveling during the COVID-19 outbreak, the CDC recommends only essential travelers go to most of Europe, China and Iran. For many, there are no travel restrictions to their spring break destinations.

For some at MEM, their travel is essential. Naomi Drake’s college canceled in-person classes for the rest of the semester.

“I wasn’t even planning on going home, but my school got canceled with a short notice,” Drake said.

For now, airport crews are continuing to heavily sanitize the building. Two restaurants in the airport, Maggie O’Shea’s and Moe’s, are closed until further notice.

With fewer passengers, only Checkpoint B will be open for TSA screening until passenger traffic picks back up.

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