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Tampa International Airport Prepares For Increased Holiday Traffic

Tampa International Airport main terminal
Tampa International Airport
Passengers traveling through Tampa International Airport this holiday season can expect to see COVID-19 precautions.

Despite a large drop in passenger traffic compared to last year, Tampa International Airport officials expect increased business this holiday season.

With the holidays quickly approaching, Tampa International Airport is preparing for increased traveller traffic this season.

Airport officials are already seeing the highest number of travelers since traffic plummeted over 90% in March due to COVID-19 and are expecting over 275,000 new passengers during the holiday season.

“You might see up to...20 to 30,000 (passenger) range per day, which is obviously unusual,” said Veronica Cintron, Vice President of Communications at Tampa International Airport.

“Our traffic went down by about 96% right as the pandemic took hold, which is a massive decline of business, and we have gradually seen improvements little by little with every passing month.”

Despite the number of passengers being down 58.6 percent from this time last year, the trend is being reversed because of new coronavirus safety protocols and over 40 new and resumed routes being launched this month.

“Thanksgiving and Christmas, you might see about 80,000 passengers a day at the airport coming and going,” said Cintron. “But truly, under this pandemic environment, we know it's going to be less, we just don't know what kind of numbers we're expecting.”

TPA is the first airport in the nation to offer two types of FDA approved, on-site COVID-19 tests (PCR and Rapid Antigen) for all passengers. Cintron said they have since administered over 4,500 tests since launching in October.

“The focus of this program has been we want to help restore confidence in travel. That really is what it's all about,” said Cintron.

The airport recently announced the testing will be extended through the end of the year. Due to its popularity and convenience for travelers, the airport has hired more BayCare staff to lessen traveller wait time.

While all 70 restaurants and shops within the airport are not yet fully operational, they are continuing to open with revamped operations and new safety provisions.

“You're going to notice more acrylic barriers all over our campus in those high-traffic areas, additional hand sanitizer stations...and you're going to see those social distancing markers all over the place,” said Cintron.

Airport officials are advising all passengers to make their travel arrangements in advance to decrease airport congestion. They’re also encouraging the use of mobile boarding passes and touchless payment options at the airport.

“The airport has never been cleaner,” said Cintron, “we've always taken a lot of pride in our facilities, but really, because of the pandemic even more so. We are extra careful, really highlighting safety as an airport, making sure all of our passengers feel like this is a very safe and comfortable experience.”

And while the pandemic’s economic impact has devastated the airline industry, Thanksgiving and Christmas will be what Cintron calls a “big time” to see what might happen going forward.

To navigate the unpredictability brought by the increased traffic and the pandemic, passengers can remain up-to-date on the status of current operations by visiting the Tampa International Airport website.

Deanna Lampasona Colon is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for fall 2020.
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