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Columbus Airports Prepare For More Travelers, But Far Fewer Than Before COVID-19

John Glenn International Airport

Now that Ohio no longer bans non-essential travel, the Columbus Regional Airport Authority is preparing for travelers once again.

Travel restrictions and general coronavirus concern kept many people grounded in the last three months, and left John Glenn Columbus International Airport and Rickenbacker International Airport nearly empty.

“We had 1,600 passengers today. To go back to April the 14th, we had about 400 passengers," says Joe Nardone, CRAA president and CEO. "So we’re four times higher than we were a little over a month ago."

But that’s still far below the average of 12,000-14,000 people travelers Columbus' airports see in a non-pandemic times.

The authority reiterates government recommendations to stay home if you’re sick, and introduced new safety measures of their own, like touchless pay for parking, six-foot demarcations for social distancing, sneeze guards for customer service workers and increased hand sanitizer stations throughout the terminal.

“Mainly we’re just trying to make sure people feel safe. All of our employees here all have face coverings,” Nardone says.

The airport is not requiring passengers to wear face masks, though most airlinesdemand those for the flights themselves.

Experts, including Nardone, expect travel to be depressed by ongoing coronavirus caution for the rest of the year. He says it’s hard to pin down an exact estimate given the uncertainty of this time, but in a budget he’s presenting to the board next week, the authority expects projects just 50% of the passengers they saw last year.

“We believe that people will come back to flying. But we want them to do it at their own pace," Nardone says. "When they are ready to fly, we are ready to have them."

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.