Travel starting to increase at Charlotte Douglas after tough year due to pandemic

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Air travel is taking off and reaching levels many haven’t seen in a year, but some are asking if it’s too much too soon.

The Transportation Security Administration has screened more than 1.2 million people in each of the last three days. That’s the first time that’s happened during the pandemic.

Health officials are still advising against travel, even for those fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But a lot of people aren’t following that advice.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport was expecting one of its busiest days of the pandemic on Sunday.

Channel 9′s Glenn Counts was at the airport and said he could see quite a few people inside.

Airport officials said at least 17,000 passengers started their journey in Charlotte. That’s still a far cry from normal traffic levels, but it’s still high during the pandemic.

Angelia Snow was heading to Florida and said she feels comfortable because she has been vaccinated.

“I feel like I’ll travel a little more. I don’t think I’m going to start every weekend, but I’ve had both vaccines, so I feel a little safer now,” she said. “This is my first trip since the pandemic has started.”

No industry in Mecklenburg County and the state has been hit harder by COVID-19 than leisure and hospitality.

“It’s been particularly hard on employment because in our state and our county, in particular, 1 in 9 work in this industry,” said Tom Murray, CEO for the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. “Just in the most recent two weeks, we’ve had a few joyous moments of welcoming customers back.”

By customers, Murray means convention business, even though there were a lot of cancellations, it was business that was just delayed.

“Our calendar is pretty good and pretty strong. There are some small gaps of openings in the future,” he said.

Leisure and hospitality include hotels and motels, restaurants and tourist attractions.

In Mecklenburg County, employment is down 25%, and hotel tax revenue is down 64% or almost half a billion dollars. But on the bright side, more people consider Charlotte to be a tourist spot.

“But what we started to see a shift in the last week or two, people are interested in urban areas,” Murray said.

To boost public confidence in flying, airport officials are touting the lengths they have gone to in order to sanitize the facility, including UV lights that destroy viruses and enhanced air filters to trap them.