As CLT airport travel increases, CDC director calls American Airline ticket sales substantial disappointment'

Charlotte airport prepares for summer travel

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - An airline focusing its flights on Charlotte is being criticized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The head of the CDC is calling American Airlines’ decision to start selling every seat on its flights, a “substantial disappointment.”

Tuesday, the airline gave reporters a look inside its airplane cleaning process at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, where workers say every nook is sanitized between every flight, added with an electrostatic cleaning once a week. It is added to steps like Plexiglas walls, prepackaged meals, and required face coverings.

“It’s designed to ensure our customers are safe,” says Ralph Lopez, Vice President of Charlotte Hub Operations for American Airlines “Not only feel safe, but are in fact safe aboard our aircraft.”

Right now, the airline is focusing flights on two hubs - DFW and CLT.

“We are recovering much quicker,” says Brent Cagle, Aviation Director and CEO for CLT. “And that’s because we are a primary hub to American Airlines.”

'Recovering,' meaning passenger traffic in Charlotte has gone from a 92 percent decrease earlier in the pandemic, to 65-70 percent decrease in the last few weeks.

Cagle recognizes the airport's position in setting the tone for other industries that are also going to be increasing business in the coming weeks.

"We've always been an economic engine, and I think we want to continue doing that," he says. "Moving people and goods is very important for the economy, and CLT is ready to continue playing its part in the economic recovery."

Starting Wednesday, American Airlines will begin selling every seat on its flights again.

Not everyone agrees with that move, including the CDC.

"I can tell you when they announced that the other day, obviously there was substantial disappointment with American Airlines," CDC Director Robert Redfield said during a committee hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. "I can say this is under critical review by us at CDC, we don't think it's the right message."

Within CLT's terminals, there is increased cleaning there, and required face masks before flyers board their planes. They are asking people to social distance, but recognize that is not always possible.

"We also know at the airport, some of the processes that are just required of air travel are just not conducive to social distancing," Cagle says. "And there will be some time for passengers when it's difficult, if not impossible, to social distance, so that's where the other measures come into play, like wearing those facial coverings and washing your hands frequently."

Cagle says CLT is one of the busiest airports in the country right now. He says for those who choose to travel, TSA is taking a bit longer and traffic is picking back up, meaning travelers will need to arrive the full two hours before departure.

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