Business taking off at London International Airport as coronavirus restrictions begin loosening

The airline industry has been hit particularly hard by the novel coronavirus pandemic, but the London International Airport is starting to see a bit of a turnaround.

Gary Vanderhoek, manager of commercial services and passenger experience, says the airport had four flights scheduled on Tuesday.

“After the last 100 days of basically no flying at the airport, it’s amazing to see a bit of a comeback,” he said on London Live with Mike Stubbs.

“It’s about a quarter of what we used to see — we were up to 30 flights a day at one time.”

Read more: Canadians allowed to travel to Europe amid coronavirus pandemic

Vanderhoek says the airport started a new program on June 22 to “regain some of that passenger confidence.” The program, Flight Path to Recovery, outlines all of the policies and procedures implemented in response to the pandemic.

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Airplanes have been operating at about half capacity for physical-distancing purposes but as of July 1, those restrictions will be eased. Some health experts have highlighted the risks of spreading COVID-19 in crowded airports and packed cabins, but director of the Harvard public health school’s Healthy Buildings program Joseph Allen said the HEPA air filters used on most planes effectively control airborne bacteria and viruses.

“One piece of confidence (passengers) can definitely take into account,” he added, “is aircraft have very strong air filters. There’s a HEPA air filter on most of them. Yes, there’s some movement of air on the aircraft but it does filter the air better than what it would, say, normally in a confined space that you’d see anywhere, that you’d see in a restaurant, let’s say.”

In line with federal directives, Air Canada and WestJet also conduct pre-boarding temperature checks and require masks on board. They have also implemented enhanced aircraft cleaning and scaled back their in-flight service in late March, cutting out hot drinks, hot meals and fresh food.

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Vanderhoek says the airport has been pretty lucky in June with about three flights a day and four additional flights a week.

“Again, a far cry from where we used to be but nice story is that the bookings are solid enough that people are starting to come back.”

Read more: Can I go to another province? The latest coronavirus travel restrictions, by region

While Vanderhoek notes volume is generally increasing, Air Canada announced on Tuesday that it’s discontinuing service on 30 domestic routes — including its London to Ottawa route — and closing eight stations at airports across the country amid weakened demand for travel due to the novel coronavirus and measures put in place to limit its spread.

Airlines end seat distancing measures
Airlines end seat distancing measures

— with files from The Canadian Press’ and Global News’ Andrew Russell.

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