ROMULUS, Mich. (WXYZ) — All it takes is a quick glance at the nearly empty departures screen at the Detroit Metro Airport to see COVID-19's impact on what's generally one of the nation's busiest airports.
Check-in counters are all but empty, and the TSA line is any traveler's dream.
DTW nearly empty this morning. According to the Wayne County Airport Authority, @DTWeetin has seen 52% fewer passengers in March of 2020 compared to March of last year. Experts say April numbers will likely be even lower @wxyzdetroit pic.twitter.com/j2G7ZCxGNP— Jenn Schanz (@JennSchanzWXYZ) May 5, 2020
DTW has a significant economic impact on Michigan and specifically the metro Detroit region, according to Sandy Baruah, CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.
DTW has not furloughed any workers according to the Airport Authority, but businesses inside the airport have taken a hit. Of @DTWeetin’s 51 stores, 39 are temporarily closed. 46 of its 52 restaurants are temporarily closed as well @wxyzdetroit— Jenn Schanz (@JennSchanzWXYZ) May 5, 2020
“It is about $8 billion a year and that has about 80,000 jobs attached to it," Baruah told 7 Action News.
He's optimistic air travel will resume, just as it did after Sept. 11, 2001– the only time other than COVID-19 major airlines across the country saw such a sharp drop in passengers.
The Wayne County Airport Authority has not furloughed any workers, however airport businesses are mostly shuttered.
Of DTW’s 51 stores, 39 are temporarily closed and 46 of its 52 restaurants are temporarily closed, according to the Wayne County Airport Authority.
Nationwide, major airlines including Delta – which has a hub in Detroit – have reported significant losses in the first three months of 2020.
In an effort to avoid layoffs, the federal government agreed to a $25 billion bailout to major U.S. airlines.
Last week, DTW got a boost. The FAA announced more than $27 million in grant money going to DTW for runway work through the FAA's Airport Improvement Program.
“15 of those $27.5 million are what we call discretionary funds. The other part were the entitlements of the airport — based upon prior passenger traffic," said D. Kirk Shaffer, FAA Associate Administrator for Airports.
Last March, around 3.2 million travelers passed through the Detroit Metro Airport. This March, passengers are down by more than 50 percent to only 1.5 million.
But Baruah said that number is likely to shift even further south once the April numbers are released in the coming weeks.
"For the month of April I think we can all expect air travel across the country including at our airport here in Detroit to be down in the 95 percent range.”
And once people do start traveling more, air travel will likely look and feel very different -- major U.S. airlines are already requiring passengers and crew to wear face coverings on board, and have implement new policies for social distancing.
Additional Coronavirus information and resources:
Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.
View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.
Find out how you can help metro Detroit restaurants struggling during the pandemic.
See all of our Helping Each Other stories.
See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.