Many airline flights nearly empty as virus undercuts travel

UNITED STATES (AP) – Airline service in the United States (US) is teetering on the brink of collapse, with near-empty planes and coronavirus outbreaks that have left some air traffic control towers empty.

Even with sharply reduced schedules, airlines are consolidating some of the remaining flights because passengers aren’t showing up.

An official of one major US airline, who asked that they and their airline not be identified, ticked off more than a dozen flights that departed on Tuesday morning with fewer than 10 passengers on board. In a few cases, pilots and flight attendants outnumbered passengers.

The official said the average flight was just over 20 per cent full and that figure is expected to drop into the teens by the weekend.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it screened 331,000 people at airport checkpoints on Monday, an 86 per cent decline from the corresponding Monday a year ago, more than 2.4 million people poured through checkpoints.

An empty baggage carousel spins in Denver International Airport. PHOTO: AP