ATLANTA - It's the unofficial start to summer, and the inside of what is routinely the world's busiest airport is hardly recognizable.
The coronavirus pandemic drastically quieted the buzz at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this Memorial Day by some 90 percent, according to airport officials.
"There was no one on the plane, it was super quiet in the airport," said traveler Meg Cooper. "It was eerie, it was strange."
"It's unbelievable, this is unprecedented," said another traveler, Juwan Daniels, flying in from Chicago.
For the first time in two decades, AAA didn't issue a Memorial Day Travel Forecast. The lowest volume of travel for the holiday dates back to 2009, according to AAA, with 2.1 million people flying over the weekend.
But as more states begin re-opening their economy, passengers are making a gradual return to lift off.
Brandy Watkins said she was "kind of nervous" for her first flight amid the pandemic, "but I got my bag full of everything, I got my hand sanitizer, my mask, my wipes, so I'm being very careful and very safe, as long as you do that, I think you'll be fine."
TSA logged nearly 350,000 air travelers last Friday, May 22 -- an uptick from recent weeks. But the total is still a drop in the bucket compared to the 2.7 million Americans who took flight the same day last year.
Ahead of the holiday weekend, the agency announced additional safety measures to reduce points of contact.
Travelers will be able to scan their boarding passes themselves, as opposed to turning them over to agents. Everyone is asked to wear face coverings. Social distancing will be practiced in security lines, with the help of tape. Belts, wallets, and keys need to be placed in carry-on bags, not bins. Food is to be kept in clear bags.
But even with this enhanced protection, concerns still linger.
"As we're opening up more and more [and...] it's getting more and more crowded, it becomes less and less possible to really keep six feet apart," said Jeffrey Ertel, returning to Atlanta.
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