Memphis International Airport sees decline in spring break travelers

(WMC Action News 5)
Updated: Mar. 16, 2020 at 2:28 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Passenger numbers at Memphis International Airport are dropping nearly 50% compared to this time last year. Concerns over the spread of COVID-19 have passengers cancelling their trips.

Those who are traveling are experiencing few lines and virtually no crowds.

“We need a spring break,” Traveler Anita Tucker said.

It’s that time of year which means spring break is here. Memphis International Airport expected Thursday and Friday to be its busiest days leading up to several Shelby County school districts’ spring breaks.

However, passengers just didn’t show up.

“I mean I get it. People are nervous, they’re scared,” Traveler Farris Williams said. “They want to stay home and separate themselves from the public.”

On Thursday TSA screened 6,400 people which is down 21% from last year. It was the start of a downward trend. Friday was down 46 %, Saturday down 54%.

“From Thursday to Sunday we screened about 18,900 employees and passengers,” MEM Spokesperson Glen Thomas said. “While that number sounds high it’s about 45-55% less than last year.”

Some passengers admit there was some talk of cancelling their trip as concerns over the spread of COVID-19 increase.

“[My husband said] ‘do you think we ought to be going? Should we be leaving the country,’” Tucker said. “[I said] ‘Yes we do.’”

“No [we never talked about canceling],” Traveler Sheila Green said. “We just take precautions and sanitize and stuff like that.”

The Centers for Disease Control has the U.S. under a level 2 travel alert meaning passengers should take extra precautions when traveling.

“We have masks. We have Clorox wipes,” Tucker said. “We have cough drops. We have gloves.”

A group of spring breakers decided to go on with the trip because it’s something they look forward to every year, and they want to have a sense of normalcy. Others said there was no option to cancel.

“I have a funeral and a brother to take care of,” Traveler Larry Haley said. “It’s essential.”

The airport said no flights have been canceled out of Memphis because of COVID-19. Crews continue to heavily sanitize the building and high-traffic areas.

Memphis International Airport said if you want to cancel a trip contact your airline, not the airport.

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