Fewer passengers flying through Eppley Airfield during COVID-19 outbreak

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- Shelter-in-place orders have been issued in most states and people are encouraged to only travel if it's essential. That means fewer people are flying and new numbers show that airline travel is down 96% compared to this time last year.

While Eppley Airfield remains open for essential travel, the Omaha Airport Authority says COVID-19 has led to a decline in passenger activity.

Spokesman Stephen McCoy tells 6 News that on average in April, there are about 6,900 departing passengers a day. Last week, it was closer to 373 passengers. He also says airline flight schedules are impacting travel for the airport as well. Eppley averages 80 airline departures a day, but through schedule reductions there were only 47 departing schedules Thursday.

Because of constant and often short notice changes, the Airport Authority is encouraging passengers to contact their airlines for flight status and travel updates ahead of time.

Industry group Airlines for America reports that only 1 in every 10 seats on U.S. domestic planes is occupied.

Nancy Chenell experienced that first hand Thursday when she flew into Omaha to pick up her grandson.

"It wasn't crowded at all. Plenty of distance between everybody," she said. "By being very careful and smart and practicing social distancing we're able to come up and go ahead with our plans, but things have certainly changed."

The Airport Authority has also temporarily closed some of the parking lots at Eppley as a result of COVID-19, and as of Thursday night the parking garages were more than 90% empty.

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