Air travel rebound at MSP
Air travel out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has crept back slightly since spring. The annual Minnesota Educator Academy (MEA) four-day break saw the biggest increase in passenger travel last weekend since the pandemic struck. On Oct. 15, nearly 17,500 passengers cleared TSA checkpoints at MSP, making it the busiest day since the week of March 16, said the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC). Over one week that included the MEA break, MSP averaged 14,177 travelers passing through checkpoints, a 20% increase over the previous week and 17% higher than Labor Day week, when it averaged 12,124 passengers. Nationally, the TSA said it screened more than 1 million passengers on Oct. 18, representing the highest level since March 17. “I think there’s a pent-up demand to travel again, and it’s merging with the public’s increased confidence about traveling safely,” said MAC CEO Brian Ryks.
Hawaii is open
Hawaii reopened to tourism Oct. 15, an occasion that featured ubiquitous face masks, very few leis and thousands of arriving passengers, most of whom had passed preflight coronavirus tests in order to avoid quarantine requirements. Unlike the trickle of passengers who arrived in the islands over the past six months, this new group of visitors is free to move among hotels (though many remain closed), roam most beaches or dine in restaurants whose dining rooms are approved for 50% capacity. Instead of staying put and isolating for 14 days, as previously required, these visitors can leave when they like. The state’s coronavirus infection rates fell dramatically in early September and have been relatively flat in recent weeks.
Los Angeles Times
Southwest alters seat policy
Southwest Airlines said it will end its pandemic-driven policy of blocking middle seats Dec. 1. Gary Kelly, CEO of the Dallas-based airline, made the announcement Thursday while reporting the company’s financial results, saying “This practice of effectively keeping middle seats open bridged us from the early days of the pandemic, when we had little knowledge about the behavior of the virus, to now.” His written statement continued, “Today, aligned with science-based findings from trusted medical and aviation organizations, we will resume selling all available seats for travel beginning December 1, 2020.” Southwest said customers on “fuller flights” can rebook to another flight if desired. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines has said it plans to block middle seats through at least Jan. 6, making it the only major network carrier to block middle seats through the holiday travel season.