U.S. Air Travel Has Dropped Significantly, but Thousands of Flights Are Still Operating (Video)
Airlines may be slashing their capacity by up to 90 percent while millions of Americans hunker down at home hoping to wait out the coronavirus pandemic, but there are still thousands of planes dotting the U.S. skies, according to reports.
A graphic from flight tracking site Flightradar24.com posted over the weekend showed while flight traffic has slowed down from the beginning of March, there are still countless planes zooming around the contiguous U.S. In fact, the site said it tracked 2,800 flights over the U.S. at one time on March 29 (compared to 6,800 from March 1).
"It would be accurate to say that transatlantic traffic has fallen sharply," Flightradar24.com’s Ian Petchenik told NPR. "U.S. domestic traffic has also fallen significantly, about 40%."
Petchenik added: "The U.S. domestic market is so large that even a substantial decrease leaves a lot of traffic in the sky.”
The site’s flight tracking does not, however, differentiate between cargo flights and passenger flights, NPR noted.
In total, Flightradar24.com recorded more than 74,000 planes in the sky on Monday, compared to more than 194,000 on Feb. 28.
The drop comes as airlines cut flight schedules amid the coronavirus pandemic — United Airlines, for example, cut 90 percent of its scheduled flights due to a drop in demand. It also follows several bans affecting travel around the world, including an announcement from the European Union that it would temporarily ban non-essential travel as well as a U.S. ban on travel from Europe.
And while Reuters reported on Tuesday Spirit Airlines will cancel flights in and out of the New York tri-state area, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel advisory concerning the area, no U.S. state has actually shut down air travel.
Although most people have stopped flying, the Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration have implemented measures to make it easier and safer for those who still have to.
For its part, the TSA is allowing people to use certain expired driver’s licenses to pass through security, asking people not to place their small personal items like phones and keys on the security belt to avoid contamination, and increasing the carry-on liquid allowance for hand sanitizer to up to 12-ounces.