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Hollywood Burbank Airport nearly empty during coronavirus pandemic

A family completes their self check-in while nearly all other lines are empty at the Hollywood Burbank Airport on Tuesday, March 17. The number of passengers at the airport were diminished by 50% or more due to the coronavirus outbreak.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

Hollywood Burbank Airport had its best performing year with nearly 6 million passengers in 2019, but the scene at the facility Tuesday morning suggests this year’s stats will look entirely different.

Airline employees stood behind their ticket counters, but there were few passengers waiting to check in. The valet parking section of the facility, which usually has at least 30 vehicles queued and waiting, was completely empty.

The restaurants within Terminal A were without customers, with only a handful of people getting drinks at a bar. Most of the passengers who were there waiting for their flights kept their distance from one another, and some wore masks and gloves.

Concerns over the novel coronavirus have many would-be travelers staying at home and practicing social distancing.

But some are still braving the airports and taking flights. Robert Morse of Tucson, Ariz., was at the Burbank airport Tuesday awaiting his flight back home.

He had been in Southern California since March 12 visiting his daughter, who lives in Carpinteria.

Despite warnings from health officials to avoid traveling unless necessary, Morse said he isn’t afraid of the coronavirus, although he noted his grandfather died in 1918 from the Spanish flu pandemic.

“I’ve lived through the swine flu, so I think I might make it through this one,” Morse said with a chuckle.

On Monday, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority held a regularly scheduled meeting at the Skyroom at the airport, but commissioners Don Brown, Vrej Agajanian and Ray Adams were the only ones there in person — commissioners Steve Madison, Bill Wiggins, Ross Selvidge and Paula Devine phoned in; Vartan Gharpetian was absent and Terry Tornek was in Africa on city business for Pasadena.

Only a few passengers are in the hall at the Hollywood Burbank Airport on Tuesday, March 17.
Only a few passengers are in the hall at the Hollywood Burbank Airport on Tuesday, March 17.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

Airport staff advised the commissioners that business at Hollywood Burbank is and will continue to be taking a major hit due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Each of the seven airlines operating at the Burbank airport either saw its number of reservations go down during the first week of March or will be cutting back on the number of flights by April, it was reported.

Although there has been a significant dip in the number of passengers, airport staff said sales at the airport’s news and gift stands were up by 3% due to people purchasing health and sanitation products.

Also during the first week of the month, hand sanitizer dispensers were installed in nearly every corner and walkway of the terminals. Additionally, the janitorial staff has been using a new cleaning product that is believed to be better at sanitizing all surfaces.

Travelers Mark Johnson, his wife Angela and their three daughters were some of the many passengers Tuesday morning found utilizing the hand sanitizer dispensers as they waited for their flight back home to Minnesota.

Passengers wearing facemasks wait in line at the check-in counter at Terminal B at the Hollywood Burbank Airport on Tuesday, March 17.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

The Johnsons spent 10 days in Ventura County visiting family and said concerns about the coronavirus never really crossed their minds.

“I think a lot of this is overblown by the media in general, so if I’m not really concerned about the flu then I’m not really worried about COVID-19,” Mark Johnson said.

While they weren’t concerned about contracting the novel coronavirus, Angela Johnson said they’ve taken precautionary measures like most travelers — wiping down all surfaces with disinfectant wipes and keeping their hands clean.

“I’ve taken the same precautions I do for flu season with my girls for what’s happening now,” she said.

The only worries that the Johnsons had before their flight was choosing which of the vacant rows they wanted to occupy on their flight.

“Everyone should relax and enjoy the slowed-down pace of life right now,” Mark Johnson said. “It’ll all work out.”

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