T.F. Green sees more travelers as some direct flights resume

WARWICK, R.I. (WLNE) – The Rhode Island Airport Corporation announced Wednesday that some direct flights to T.F. Green Airport would resume after being suspended in early May due to low demand amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Direct service to Washington, D.C. and Cincinnati, OH by American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Allegiant Airlines are all resuming this week and next.

“In the middle of May we were in historic lows for airport volume and that was understandable as people were abiding by stay at home orders,” said RIAC spokesman John Goodman. “We’re doing everything we can to keep (travelers) safe at the airport, the airlines themselves are doing everything they can do to keep individuals safe.”

Goodman said the airport is working hard to keep all shared surfaces clean, and airlines themselves have a different set of regulations in place. He said currently Frontier is requiring temperature checks, and the TSA has their own set of rules when it comes to staying safe.

“This is all an indication of passenger levels slowly but surely increasing as people grow more comfortable with flying in the post-COVID age,” said Goodman.

At the airport Thursday, travelers on the first resumed flights arrived and said the experience was different.

“They don’t serve any of the drinks or food anymore on the flight, so if you want something just buy it before. They unload passengers by row now, and not just like a whole big cluster,” said Stasia Czernicki of Connecticut.

Czernicki said she wasn’t a fan of wearing a mask on board, but the airline she rode with required it to stay on.

“I saw they were taking some temperatures at the Charlotte airport when I got in from Charleston, other than that it’s just the facemask thing really, and kind of just making sure everyone’s keeping their distance from one another,” said Ciara Gilbert of Connecticut.

Gilbert was on a flight from Charlotte, NC, and said the airports she went through were eerily quiet.

“It only took me about 10 minutes to get through security which is kinda crazy. A lot of the restaurants and coffee shops are shut down which is weird to see.”

A spokesperson from the TSA said in mid-June, new procedures will be in place for TSA officers to follow.

The procedures include:

1. Instead of handing their boarding pass to a TSA officer at the travel document podium, travelers will be asked to place their boarding pass (paper or electronic) on the boarding pass reader themselves. After scanning, travelers should hold their boarding pass toward the TSA officer to allow the officer to visually inspect it. This change reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a passenger’s boarding pass thus reducing the potential for cross-contamination.

2. Passengers will need to place their carry-on food items into a bin. It is recommended to place the food into a clear plastic bag and place that bag into a bin instead of placing food directly into the bin. Food items often trigger an alarm during the screening process; separating the food from the carry-on bag lessens the likelihood that a TSA officer will need to open the carry-on bag and remove the food items for a closer inspection. This requirement allows social distancing, reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a person’s container of food, and reduces the potential for cross-contamination. TSA Precheck members do not need to remove items from their bags.

3. If a traveler has any prohibited items, such as liquids, gels or aerosols in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces, in their carry-on bags (water bottles, shampoo) passengers may be directed to return to the divestiture table outside of security with their carry-on bags to remove the item and dispose of the item. The passenger may also be directed back outside of security to remove, items that should have originally been divested (such as laptops, liquids, gels, and aerosols, and large electronics) and resubmit their property for X-ray screening. By resolving alarms in this manner, TSA officers will need to touch the contents inside a carry-on bag much less frequently, reducing the potential for cross-contamination.

In addition to these measures, TSA officers are wearing masks at the checkpoint when they are screening passengers along with gloves. They’ve also been instructed to use a fresh swab each time they test for explosive material.

Security lines are socially distanced, and passengers are encouraged to place personal items in carryon bags instead of inside bins.

TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on bags that will need to be screened separately, adding some time to a traveler’s checkpoint screening experience.

© WLNE-TV 2020

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Providence, Regional News, Rhode Island, Warwick