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Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport preps for holiday travelers

Travelers stand six feet apart on social distancing markers on the floor as they prepare to go through security at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. (WJHG/WECP)
Travelers stand six feet apart on social distancing markers on the floor as they prepare to go through security at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. (WJHG/WECP)(WJHG)
Published: May. 14, 2020 at 5:20 PM CDT
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It was a busier day at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport on Thursday.

“Going into the plane you won’t have any space so everyone is next to each other," said Rafael Jimenez who traveled from Texas to visit his brother.

Whether flying for work, fun, or anything in between, most travelers had the same thing on their mind.

Rachel Rusnak came from Tampa to visit a friend. She said, “I was a little bit nervous but at the same time I feel like you know I’m doing everything that I can to help prevent as far as I have my hand sanitizer, I did wipe down everything as soon as I got on the plane.”

“Well the airport is taking a lot of precautions that you see and don’t see. There’s social distancing markers throughout the terminal, especially pre-security, extra wipe down of high-touch surfaces,” said Parker McClellan, executive director of the airport.

Precautions are being taken in the skies as well, with some airlines like Southwest going as far as reducing the number of seats available on every flight by about a third to allow for social distancing on board.

McClellan said, “we’re not requiring masks however the airlines do require masks in order to get on the plane.”

But the pandemic doesn’t seem to stop travelers from coming to the area. McClellan said despite COVID-19, the airport has recently seen an increase of traffic. “Since the beach opened we’ve seen an increase of traffic. You know numbers have gone up a lot. We were at a low of 50 and 60 people flying out to a high right now of close to 5 or 600,” he said.

However those numbers could change with Memorial Day weekend on the horizon.

McClellan said, “but as we look and we see the increase in activity, hopefully there will be some growth. Our governor’s taken a very aggressive approach in how we reopen the state. He established a task force of which there was an air representative from the Tampa airport on there- their president.”

That airport representative on the governor's task force is Joe Lopano. Mcclellan says Lopano has put forth a reopening plan to the governor that McClellan believes is safe for airline passengers and employees.

Copyright 2020 WJHG. All rights reserved.

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