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April traffic at Detroit Airport down 94 percent, showing signs of slow progress

dtw express tram.jpeg
Posted at 4:49 AM, Jun 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-04 06:51:51-04

(WXYZ) — April 2020 passenger traffic at Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) is down 94 percent compared to April 2019, according to the latest numbers from the Wayne County Airport Authority.

Year to date, passenger traffic is down 37 percent overall compared to the first four months of 2019.

"We’re starting to see some recovery, doesn’t mean we’re going to be back to normal anytime soon," said Sandy Baruah, President and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

The pandemic has dealt a major blow to the air travel and leisure industry; Detroit Metro Airport, an economic hub for this region, is not immune.

"It’s not just the jobs that actually are at the airport, it is all the spin off jobs that are created by the airport. The airport is a tremendous economic generator," Baruah told 7 Action News.

April's grim travel numbers were expected, after March travel numbers showed a decline of more than 50 percent compared to 2019, and many people were still traveling during the first part of March, prior to the stay-at-home order.

Most of Detroit Metro Airport's retail stores are closed, 39 out of 52, which was the same as last month. Of the airport's 51 restaurants, 44 remain temporarily shuttered and 9 are now open; last month only 6 were open.

A Wayne County Airport Authority spokesperson said by June 15, 12 restaurants should be back open.

"Passenger traffic will be the primary determining factor for concessionaires as they consider reopening. However, staffing levels and product availability also play a role," said spokesperson Erika Donerson via email.

So when will travel numbers bounce back?

“They’re starting to come out. And they’re being led by the leisure travelers," said Charlie Leocha, the CEO of Travelers United, a consumer advocacy organization and lobby group. "When we look at business travelers, the business travelers are much more careful," he said.

Currently, Delta is operating 12 daily in-state departures in and out of DTW and plans to increase that number to 23 in July. Delta said while its kept the same flight routes, it's decreased flight frequency over the course of the pandemic.

Because of the low air travel, there are some dirt cheap deals to be had; but Leocha warns travelers to read the fine print.

“You have to be careful about when you’re traveling, when you’re buying your ticket and so-on. Airlines have waived what they call cancellation fees. Those requirements and those waivers have been loosened but only for certain months," Leocha said.

He advises travelers who do encounter hidden fees to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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