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BWI Marshall Airport is seeing a gradual increase in passengers, but remains far emptier than usual amid coronavirus pandemic

BWI Marshall Airport, which was nearly empty this spring as most travelers canceled trips due to the coronavirus pandemic, is seeing passenger volumes slowly pick back up.

The number of passengers screened at the airport’s security checkpoints dropped by 96% in the month of April, its lowest point. Passenger traffic is bouncing back, but it remained 70.5% lower in June — the most recent month for which data has been released — than in June 2019, according to the state.

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“Throughout much of July, we regularly experienced passenger numbers similar to what we saw in mid-March,” said Jonathan Dean, a spokesman for the state-owned airport. “And now in mid-August, we’ve seen some continued growth.”

7:19 p.m. - A pilot walks along the completely empty corridor for international travelers, where every check-in- terminal is closed and roped off at Thurgood Marshall BWI Airport. The coronavirus pandemic has greatly curtailed air travel. April 1, 2020
7:19 p.m. - A pilot walks along the completely empty corridor for international travelers, where every check-in- terminal is closed and roped off at Thurgood Marshall BWI Airport. The coronavirus pandemic has greatly curtailed air travel. April 1, 2020 (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

The 12,532 outgoing passengers at Baltimore/Washington International on Sunday were the most on one day since the Thursday before the Fourth of July, Dean said. But the number of people traveling from the Linthicum airport remained down more than 60% from the same day in August last year.

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The more than 48,000 screenings over the course of a four-day span last weekend was the most since mid-March, before Gov. Larry Hogan signed a stay-at-home order restricting people from leaving their homes except for essential trips, Dean said.

The numbers mirror a national trend of more passengers returning to the skies — albeit slowly and in numbers well below normal — as various states push forward with reopening efforts, said Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

Airports across the country saw only 565,946 passengers pass through security checkpoints on Tuesday. For reference, more than 2.2 million people flew in the U.S. on the same day last year, according to TSA.

“It is safe to say that what is happening nationally is happening at every airport across the country, regardless of airport size,” Farbstein said.

The Maryland Aviation Administration, the TSA and the airlines have adjusted their operations at BWI due to COVID-19, ordering extra cleanings, providing sanitizer and putting up protective shields at document checking stations, ticket counters, and information desks.

Masks or face coverings have been required in all areas inside the airport since July 31, and the airport’s stores and restaurants were requiring them before then, Dean said.

7:12 p.m. - A stern warning greets travelers from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut at Thurgood Marshall BWI Airport, ordering them to quarantine for 14 days. The airport is eerily empty since the coronavirus pandemic has greatly curtailed air travel. Many of Baltimore's busiest locations in the evening are now nearly empty, following Gov. Hogan's orders for Marylanders to stay home. April 1, 2020
7:12 p.m. - A stern warning greets travelers from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut at Thurgood Marshall BWI Airport, ordering them to quarantine for 14 days. The airport is eerily empty since the coronavirus pandemic has greatly curtailed air travel. Many of Baltimore's busiest locations in the evening are now nearly empty, following Gov. Hogan's orders for Marylanders to stay home. April 1, 2020 (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

“The airport and our airlines will provide face coverings, if needed,” the BWI spokesman said. “Face coverings are also available for purchase at a number of airport stores and from several vending machines in the terminal and rental car facility.”

Most of BWI’s restaurants and stores closed at least temporarily amid the pandemic, with indoor dining prohibited and few passengers to serve. About half of the airport’s restaurants and stores have since reopened, Dean said.

The airport also consolidated its parking operations on March 18, closing the long-term A and B lots, the express lot and valet parking. The parking rate at the daily garage has been reduced to $8 a day, the normal cost of long-term parking, and hourly parking has been lowered to $12 a day.

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