Despite fewer travelers this year, CAE still working to keep passengers safe from terminal to destination

The airport is expecting 800 fewer travelers than what they're used to seeing each year

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — Like they’ve done year after year, Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) is gearing up for a busy week as travelers get ready to head home for Thanksgiving.

However, this year they’re expecting fewer passengers coming through the terminal.

For the last five years, CAE has seen an average of 1,800 passengers come through their doors the week of Thanksgiving. However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are only expecting to have 1,000 passengers this time around.

Mike Gula, CAE’s Executive Director, says this passenger load is still higher than what they saw back in the spring.

“What was scary was when you’re out there in the concourse, the only people you saw getting off the plane were the pilots and the flight attendants,” Gula said.

To make customers feel safe in the airport, CAE has been giving out free face-masks, and hired more staff to keep the airport fresh and clean.

With airlines putting more of an emphasis on social distancing and cleaning their cabins, Gula says he wants customers to have a safe experience from terminal to destination.

“Right now is probably the best and safest time to fly,” Gula said.

Some passengers heading home for Thanksgiving told ABC Columbia they are aware of the risks of air travel during a pandemic, but that their experience at CAE makes them feel better about flying home.

“It’s not overly crowded, everybody’s wearing their mask, everybody’s taking their precautions, cleaning their hands, making sure they’re okay,” said Dwight Simmons, who flew through CAE Tuesday.

Gula said it could take three or four years to get back to their record 2019 passenger numbers, but told ABC Columbia this Thanksgiving is just one step towards that goal.

“Makes me feel that the public’s starting to realize that it’s still safe to fly, and people want to get out and see their families. We’re just ready to get the public back here and get traveling again,” Gula said.

For more information about CAE’s COVID-19 response, click here.

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