Thanksgiving Travelers Fly Into Kansas City Amid Coronavirus Warnings
Even with advice not to travel this season, hugs and tears flowed inside Kansas City International Airport as family and friends reunited for the holidays.
Joni Breidenthal was waiting in the Terminal B concourse with her daughter Laney. Waiving a “welcome home” sign, the mother and sister welcomed Laney’s sister Julia, who attends the Coast Guard Academy, with a group hug complete with tears and laughter.
Still, the airport was noticeably quiet before the younger Breidenthal’s arrival.
“To me, it’s a ghost town,” Joni Breidenthal noted, looking around the concourse while she waited for her daughter’s arrival.
Following a nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases, the Centers for Disease Control warned against holiday travel. Still, Kansas City International airport saw an increase in passenger traffic Wednesday, even though it was lower than usual for Thanksgiving.
The Kansas City Aviation Department estimated that nearly 180,000 passengers would travel in and out of Kansas City International Airport during the 12-day Thanksgiving season — a 55 percent decrease from 2019. However, Wednesday marked the first time Kansas City International had seen more than 200 flights since March.
Airport spokesman Joe McBride said the airport is abundantly aware of the CDC advice and prepared with safety protocols, signage and messaging for travelers.
“There’s a lot of different measures in place, so it’s a team effort of us and the aeronautical business and the travelers doing our part,” he said. “But also, you as a traveler, you need to be smart and do the things we know what we’re supposed to do here to be safe.”
But people will travel no matter what and the airport can’t close its doors, McBride added. “So, we’re in the ‘If you wish to travel, we’re ready for you’ mode.”
Still, the pandemic and load restrictions from the various airlines are taking their toll on what is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year.
Kris Roberts, an above-the-wing supervisor for Southwest Airlines at KCI, said the airport is busier than it has been recently but not like it would normally be for the day before Thanksgiving.
“Normally, it would be chaotic right now,” he said. “It’s just busy.” He described the activity at the airport Wednesday as “steady but not overwhelming.
Independence resident Brian Williamson arrived at Terminal B from San Diego through Denver. He said this was the first time he has traveled in the pandemic.
“Man, it’s surprising to see,” he said. “There’s nobody at the airport. I mean nobody.”
Williamson explained how easy it is to travel now, noting how he used to arrive at an airport an hour or two ahead of time.
“Even this morning in San Diego,” Williamson observed. “I was dropped off (and) inside within four minutes. My bag was checked, and in another five minutes, I was through security.”