As coronavirus lockdowns continue to ease, Americans eager for a getaway over Memorial Day weekend led to long lines, a lack of social distancing, and missed flights at one airport in North Carolina. In video from Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Memorial Day, dozens of travelers could be seen lined up, many without masks, as they waited to reach a TSA checkpoint.
Here’s the current situation @CLTAirport on this Memorial Day. The line is wrapped and looping around the lobby for TSA. I’m told people are growing frustrated/missing flights. And I don’t see much social distancing at all. @wcnc pic.twitter.com/NybOgM5Rh4— Hunter Sáenz (@Hunt_Saenz) May 25, 2020
According to WCNC Charlotte reporter Hunter Sáenz, who shared the troubling video to Twitter on Monday, the line to reach the TSA checkpoint was "wrapped and looping around the lobby." Sáenz said that he was "told people are growing frustrated/missing flights." He also noted that he did not see many of the travelers in the video practicing social distancing, which is continuing to be recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health officials even as stay-at-home orders begin to lift nationwide.
As people fired off in the replies, calling the scene "horrible" and asking why people were "even traveling in the first place" given the fact that the world is in the midst of a global pandemic, Sáenz took to Twitter to share another post showcasing the scene at the airport. The image, just like the video, showed long lines, a lack of social distancing, and only about half of the travelers wearing masks, which are also encouraged by the CDC and health officials, as they can help prevent the spread of the virus.
Although Charlotte Douglas International Airport was crowded and seemed to signal that travel was again booming, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported that just over 600,000 people flew throughout the course of Memorial Day Weekend. On Friday, 348,673 people traveled, and 253,190 traveled on Saturday, with an additional 267,451 people and 340,769 people boarding planes on Sunday and Monday. Those numbers showcased a significant drop from Memorial Day weekend 2019, when the TSA recorded nearly 2.7 million, 2.1 million, 2 million, and 2.5 million across those same dates.
Signaling just how much travel has slowed as a result of the pandemic, for the first time in 20 years, AAA did not release its annual Memorial Day weekend travel forecast. In a statement, Paula Twidale, senior vice president at AAA Travel, noted that while "43 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day Weekend" last year, marking "the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes" in 2000, "with social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend's travel volume is likely to set a record low."