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Billings airport adds sanitizer stations amid coronavirus outbreak

Flights remain unchanged so far
Posted at 7:02 PM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 16:24:16-04

BILLINGS — The Billings Logan International Airport added hand-sanitizing stations while cleaning crews are hard at work amid the outbreak of the coronavirus, also called COVID-19, Director of Aviation and Transit Kevin Ploehn said Tuesday.

Ploehn said airport crews are wiping down all hard surfaces with disinfectant, including chair arms, doors or any place that people may touch.

"We've put up additional hand sanitizers everywhere ... We're trying to keep the terminals as spick-and-span as we can so there's no impetus for people to think that they are going to get sick at the airport," Ploehn said.

While cleaning is being ramped up, flights in and out of Billings have been largely unaffected from the outbreak.

"The current schedule hasn’t been impacted. We could see some summer activity drop off. Which we are watching closely ... I’m sure as this thing develops and people stop going to conferences and traveling for business and pleasure, we’ll start to see some numbers drop off a bit. It’s too early to tell," Ploehn said.

Larger airlines with international flights have accounted for most schedule change nationwide, which doesn't include Billings, Ploehn said. Most Billings flyers heading overseas connect with hubs in places like Denver or Salt Lake City.

The Billings airport set a record for the number of people leaving Billings with 474,000 in 2019, prompting larger airlines to add more seats to Billings. Comparing January numbers this year to last, Ploehn said people leaving the airport increased 5 percent.

So it's too early to tell if the outbreak will prompt changes in the airlines schedules, Ploehn said.

If people have flights booked that they need to change or cancel, Ploehn said most airlines will let you make flight changes without any fees.

"How long that will last, I do not know,” Ploehn said.

If traveling in the spring and summer months, Ploehn said people should still arrive early to catch their flights. The Transportation Safety Administration had its budget cut, which has left the Billings airport understaffed.

"As we get closer to summer, even if the numbers may be down from last year, I assume we’ll still have a decent crowd. With less TSA staff because of the budget cuts, it’s best that people get here as early as they can for their flight just to be sure they make their flight," Ploehn said.