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Thanksgiving travel

With the Thanksgiving holiday right around the corner, many might be thinking about travel plans. Lehigh Valley International Airport has already begun its holiday planning, including continuing to take measures to keep the airport clean and sanitary amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

LVIA had seen a significant drop in travel traffic at the beginning of the pandemic, with only 2,749 passengers in April 2020. That’s a 96.7-percent decrease from April 2019, according to Director of Public and Government Relations Colin Riccobon.

Since then, LVIA has seen a slight uptick with 25,545 passengers in September 2020, according to the airport’s website. Travel traffic has remained around that 25,000 range since May or June, according to Executive Director Thomas Stoudt.

Stoudt thinks concern about travel, especially to hot spot states and guidance from Pennsylvania Department of Health requiring a two-week quarantine, could be the main cause.

“The department of health requires quarantining for two weeks, so even a one-week holiday requires a three-week break,” he said.

On top of that, there’s no business travel right now, so any travel traffic the airport does receive is purely for leisure.

As for the upcoming holidays, Stoudt predicts there will still be typical holiday travel, though far less than what they’re used to.

“We’re seeing people are going to be traveling shorter distances,” Stoudt said. “[People usually travel] on average about 1,000 miles for Thanksgiving. This year, based on a lot of travel websites for bookings, hotels, etc., we’re seeing more like 500 miles.”

They’re also seeing some changes in how people are choosing to travel, with more people traveling by car. Overall, bookings are down about 30-40 percent from last year.

“We’re still going to see an uptick for travel,” he said, “just nothing like what we’re used to seeing.”

As for COVID-19 precautions, there are “a lot of things you’re expecting to see from a public place,” he said, including a sign at the front entrance stating you can’t enter without a mask covering your nose and mouth. In addition, there are about 700 different floor decals/markings for social distancing, hand sanitizing and disinfecting wipe stations and plastic shields at ticket counter positions, security check points and gate counters, according to Stoudt.

“Check points are a high-contact area,” he said, explaining they’re trying to minimize this by encouraging people to wash their hands and use hand sanitizing stations.

Most notably, however, they also recommend people think about their mobile devices. They want to make sure people are wiping down their phones with disinfecting wipes, Stoudt said. They also recommend putting your keys, phone and other high-contact items in your carry-on bag as you travel through the check point to minimize contact.

Finally, LVIA is also using long-lasting antimicrobial disinfectants that last around 14 days.

“We’re applying these with special machines - electrostatic foggers - that allow us to disinfect large areas very quickly,” in addition to applying transparent antimicrobial film to elevator buttons, door handles and other high-contact points, Stoudt said.

The film is self cleaning and protects frequently touched surfaces.

PRESS PHOTO BY SCOTT M. NAGY Lehigh Valley International Airport, as seen from a helicopter, is preparing for an expected increase in travel for the Thanksgiving holiday. Representatives say the airport has safety and health measures in place.