Weekend Lambert Passenger Numbers Expected to be Highest Since Pandemic Began

Nov. 27, 2020

Nov. 25—ST. LOUIS COUNTY — Despite warnings about spiking coronavirus infections, passenger counts and crowds at St. Louis Lambert International Airport this holiday weekend are expected to be the largest since the pandemic began.

While the numbers will be far below the norm for the Thanksgiving season, Lambert officials say 9,137 departing passengers were projected to go through security checkpoints on Wednesday and even more — 9,772 — on Sunday.

The numbers, issued by the federal Transportation Security Administration, are expected to exceed 7,400 on Saturday and Monday.

On peak days during the 2019 Thanksgiving season, more than 20,000 departing passengers were reported at Lambert.

Lambert recorded only about 550 departing passengers a day in April, the lowest point of the pandemic for airport traffic.

Airport officials didn't release an estimate for the total number of travelers expected this weekend, including those on connecting flights. But spokesman Roger Lotz said "we're probably going to be around 50% from last year."

Lotz said Lambert was handling about 150 flights Wednesday, about 100 fewer than the day before Thanksgiving last year.

Face masks are required inside Lambert's terminals and the airport has free masks available at the information desk in Terminal 1 and at Southwest Airlines ticketing counters in Terminal 2.

Lambert officials say that security checkpoint lines will look longer than normal because of the 6-foot social distancing separations required but that the lines move faster than they look like they would.

Lotz said fewer airport restaurants than usual have been operating during the pandemic and seating areas have been spaced out in those that are running.

St. Louis County's indoor dining ban so far has not been imposed on Lambert's restaurants.

Christopher Ave, a spokesman for St. Louis County's health department, said his agency and the city of St. Louis-owned airport are in talks "about how to keep customers safe while providing food services."

More than 100 hand sanitizer stations have been added throughout the terminals. Vending machines selling masks, hand sanitizer and gloves have been installed at four locations.

Nationally, Thanksgiving air travel is down by more than half from last year because of the rapidly worsening coronavirus outbreak.

But the 3 million who went through U.S. airport checkpoints last Friday through Sunday marked the biggest crowds since mid-March.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans not to travel or spend the holiday with people outside their household.

New cases of the virus in the U.S. have rocketed to all-time highs, averaging more than 170,000 per day, and deaths have soared to over 1,500 a day, the highest level since the spring.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Mark Schlinkmann — 314-340-8265 @markschlinkmann on Twitter [email protected]

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