Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport sees uptick in travelers since coronavirus outbreak


ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — The Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport (ROA) has seen a steady increase in passengers over the last few weeks.

“Traffic is slowly building back up and we’re excited about that. We’re seeing some capacity come back into the market which is good,” says Brad Boettcher, Director of Marketing and Air Service Development at ROA.

The airport saw a sharp decrease in 2020 traffic, with March traffic down 50.7% and April traffic by 97% on a year-over-year basis.The lowest amount recorded was on Monday, April 27, with only 25 passengers departing that day.

The spread of COVID-19, businesses eliminating travel, advisories to restrict non-essential travel, and stay-at-home orders have all played a role in this decrease in airline operations and travelers,

With Phase One and Phase Two of Gov. Ralph Northam’s “Reopening Virginia” plan underway, people are becoming more comfortable travelling with less restrictions.

ROAhas seen 100 outbound passengers per day over the last 15 days, and five out of those 15 days had more than 200 passengers per day. Airlines are also slowly adding more flights they had to cut because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Next month in July, American [Airlines] is going to run their full complement minus one flight that they would have pre-COVID, so we’re excited to see that and traffic growing and people feeling comfortable to travel again,” says Boettcher.

In February, the airport implemented new cleaning procedures to stop the spread of COVID-19, including strategically placing hand sanitizers throughout the terminal and increasing disinfection efforts in high-contact areas.

As more people continue to travel, Boettcher says enhanced cleaning protocols are here to stay.

“When we saw the potential for COVID-19 coming down the road, we just enhanced the frequencies of some of those cleanings, especially high-touch and high-contact areas. Our carriers are finding themselves doing the same thing as well, so they’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people and as touch-less as possible as well,” says Boettcher.

For those planning on traveling this summer, Boettcher says it’s important to pack a bit of patience.

“It’s summertime, so you’re probably going to have more families traveling. With the social distancing, just keep that in mind. Just pack a little bit of extra patience in there. The loads are light enough right now that the checkpoints are not carrying the volume that it typically does, so it’s still very easy and convenient to get through the checkpoint here opposed to flying out of a larger airport where they’re going to be more people,” says Boettcher.

While the airport won’t get back to normal traffic until several years down the line, Boettcher hopes to keep the facility a safe and clean environment for future passengers.

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