Lehigh students use the Lehigh Valley International Airport (LVIA) as an easily accessible airport for travels. The LVIA remains open during the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy of Lehigh Valley International Airport)

Lehigh Valley Int’l Airport sees decrease in travel, instills safety measures amid COVID-19

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Amidst the outbreak and continuous spread of the coronavirus, the Lehigh Valley International Airport (LVIA) remains open — despite changes in their operations, including new protocols to follow social distancing measures. 

Colin Riccobon, director of government and public relations for Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, said LVIA has taken various precautionary measures to ensure the safety of its passengers. He said they began instilling new practices and policies in late January. 

“We have adjusted our operational status as COVID-19 has gone on,” Riccobon said. “Each time something comes up, I think you see an adaptation of the airport to ensure that we are doing what these organizations and leaders are trying to do, and we want to make sure we are helping in flattening the curve.” 

Changes include increasing in staff education and custodial services to clean high traffic passenger areas and the terminals, he said. 

Riccobon said the airport is creating ways for staff to telecommute to reduce the amount of people in passenger-heavy areas. 

Prior to March, LVIA saw 29 consecutive months of positive passenger growth, Riccobon said. 

He said LVIA processes about 1600 people through their TSA checkpoints every day, on average. On April 7, though, the airport saw a total of 50 passengers. 

Thomas Stoudt, the executive director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, said the number of passengers moving through LVIA’s terminal complex is about 95 percent below average. 

“That’s something that’s never been seen before in aviation history,” he said.

Riccobon said there have been corresponding changes to flight schedules. LVIA hosts four commercial airlines —Delta, United Airlines, Allegiant Air and American Airlines — all of which have adjusted their flights. 

Riccobon said while airlines are reducing the number of flights scheduled, and some are being canceled altogether, flights still continue to be scheduled. 

Jack VanDusen, ‘22, flew into LVIA on March 7, and said he saw the effects of the coronavirus on the travel industry firsthand.

“My flight was completely empty,” VanDusen said. “There were only three other people on my flight, but the airport itself was just as busy as normal.” 

In order for the airport to close,  LVIA would need approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to close for a non-aeronautical purpose, such as COVID-19-19,  Stoudt said. 

Riccobon said it is the right decision for LVIA to remain open.

“When you look at it, (LVIA) is such a critical transportation hub to provide, not only necessary passenger traffic, but we also have continuing cargo flights, which ensure that critical shipments of supplies are still moving through our region and beyond,” Riccobon said.

He said their decreasing numbers show how closely people are adhering to national and state guidelines, which is important to keep people safe.

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