Richmond International Airport prepares for increase in summer travel

Richmond International Airport prepares for increase in summer travel
Richmond International Airport is preparing for their summer travel rush with more precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Source: Source;NBC12)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As more travelers take to the skies, Richmond International Airport is preparing for their summer travel rush.

Perry Miller, president and CEO of Richmond International Airport, says officials have seen a rise in travelers double in the last couple of months.

“When the pandemic hit, when we saw that 300 or so passengers, that was devastating to us,” Miller said. “We’ve seen an increase now to about a high of 5,000 passengers a day. A little bit different from what we’re accustomed to seeing, but definitely some increase.”

Richmond International Airport says across the country, TSA officers are screening 1.6 million people every day. They say this is a significant increase from last year, but still down from the 2.5 million people screened every day in 2019.

With this increase in travel comes more preparation. Officials are encouraging travelers to come to the airport 90 minutes before their flight leaves.

They’re also encouraging everyone to bring their mask, which is still required per a federal mandate.

The airport is also asking travelers to keep six feet apart with social distancing markers and to wash or sanitize their hands before entering the security checkpoint.

Inside the security checkpoint, acrylic barriers are up. This is up to minimize cross-contamination between employees and travelers.

Chuck Burke, TSA’s federal security director for Richmond International Airport, says travelers will also have a touchless procedure to follow when they’re checking in to the security checkpoint with a TSA officer.

“We don’t touch your ID,” Burke said. “All we do is ask you to put it on to the reader and you just take your mask and drop it down a little bit so we can compare the image to the driver’s license.”

To cut back on touching bins, travelers will need to empty items from their pockets into their carry-on bag. People can also carry one liquid hand sanitizer container, which can go up to 12 ounces.

TSA officers will also change gloves between pat-downs and do routine cleanings to disinfect frequently-touched surfaces.

At the moment, Burke says he doesn’t have any concerns about staffing shortages at the airport as TSA reports warnings about shortages around the country.

“At this time, we are not facing a staffing shortage,” Burke said. “We are not suffering a real shortness to where its impacting our operations at all.”

To prepare for busier times, especially during holiday weekends, Burke says they plan ahead. He also says members of his staff will also help out at security checkpoints when needed to help with non-screening roles.

“We’ll move the bins. When you go through the checkpoint, you’ll see the TSA’s in uniform are taking the bins moving them from front to back,” he said. “That takes a consumable amount of time, so we’ll take that off of them.”

Burke also says they’re in a continuous hiring mode as they look to fill more positions.

“The difficulty in keeping up with it is the market out there is not as readily available,” he said. “People are not applying as much as possible.”

You can find the jobs available at TSA by clicking here.

The federal mask mandate will end on Sept. 13. Officials are also planning to keep the acrylic barriers up and touchless identification process after the mandate is lifted.

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