Most major airlines have trimmed their flight schedules as the number of passengers have dropped significantly amid concerns surrounding the spread of the coronavirus.
U.S. airlines are facing around an 80% drop in passengers over the last few weeks compared to the number of travelers at the same time last year, according to Transportation Security Administration data.
Joe McBride, marketing manager at Kansas City International Airport, said airlines responded by changing or canceling flights in an effort to consolidate passengers to fewer flights. The airlines announced schedule reductions for MCI, but have yet to release the specifics as of Tuesday, March 31.
“It’s costing the airlines a lot of money to operate a flight with very few people flying,” McBride said. “If they can consolidate people on those fewer flights that are available, they can stem their losses.”
McBride added that with less flights, airlines are looking for locations to park their aircraft, including around 30 aircraft at MCI.
The U.S. government enacted travel restrictions for passengers traveling to or from certain countries and screenings for passengers coming from certain counties, but MCI has no nonstop flights to or from those locations. Passengers will have cleared a screening by U.S. customs in other airports prior to arriving in Kansas City.
The Kansas City airport announced on March 4 it would increase custodial efforts to refill dispensers for soap, sanitizer and paper towels, as well as communicate with airlines, concessions and other airport tenants about the need to increase their cleaning efforts.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank all of the airport and airline employees who are still working — the ones keeping the buses going, the security screeners and some of the concessions are still open,” McBride said. “There are people that are still working to get people where they want to go safely.”
McBride said passengers should keep in touch with the airline and where they bought their tickets. He said airlines proactively reach out to customers when flights are changed or canceled and that customers should provide the airline with phone numbers and email addresses to help improve that process. He also recommends checking the flight’s status up to the day before boarding.
MCI has not yet made any operational changes regarding COVID-19. McBride said the airport defers to federal and local health officials to guide them on the proper response to this type of crisis.