SAN DIEGO — While millions of Americans are being asked to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic, flights continue to take off from all over the country each day. Many might be wondering who is flying and why the airlines are still operating.
Andrew Beltran has worked as a flight attendant based out of Los Angeles for the last two and a half years and described to FOX 5 just how different flights look these days.
“One week felt like a month almost because there’s changes every day in terms of our service going from, for instance, first class working a five-course meal down to a snack basket in a matter of a week,” said Beltran.
It might surprise people to learn if you wanted to fly nonstop this weekend to New York — the epicenter of the virus in the United States — they would have a number of options between the San Diego International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport.
The days and weeks seem to be blending for all of us especially as rules and restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic evolve quickly.
“Flights were completely full let’s say three weeks ago. Two weeks ago half full, to now maybe 10 passengers,” said Beltran.
Beltran also mentioned the amount of passengers varies by the route and time of day. Airlines recently began cancelling flights to the same location and consolidating passengers onto one flight, but before that Beltran says he remembers a flight with as few as two people on board.
Airlines have drastically cut routes, with most reporting 50% to 70% reductions and airports themselves now look like ghost towns..
The San Diego International Airport shared with FOX 5 that the number of passengers screened through TSA this week was down 95% compared to this same week last year.
Airlines have put in place strict guidelines on safety, social spacing and cleanliness for both the benefit of employees and passengers still flying.
President Donald Trump recently made mention of travel restrictions between hotspots for the coronavirus, but nothing has been acted on.
Many flight attendants still working, like Beltran, say they’re thankful for a paycheck and will continue to fly for as long as possible even if that decision comes with a sacrifice.
“You’re by yourself. You have no choice but to stay by yourself to protect your family and friends. If you are a carrier and you give it to someone that would just be heartbreaking,” said Beltran.
The federal government still classifies airlines and airports as essential services, while some people travel for critical needs like healthcare treatments and commercial flights regularly carry cargo around the country and world. Travel for any nonessential reason is being strongly discouraged.
The San Diego International Airport told FOX 5 it would only cease operating upon direct orders from the FAA or U.S. Department of Transportation.