September 13, 2020
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, international trips may continue at Philadelphia International Airport starting on Monday.
The decision to resume transatlantic flights at PHL came after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said that travelers from restricted countries will no longer need to go through enhanced health screenings and temperature checks at a select number of airports.
Only 15 airports have been permitted to receive international passengers amid the public health crisis. Philadelphia International Airport was not selected, thus forcing it to suspend all international flights due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“On behalf of the PHL airport community, we would like to extend gratitude to the CDC, the White House, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Department of Homeland Security for their role in this decision that allows PHL to once again accept transatlantic flights and passengers,” Philadelphia International Airport CEO Charlie Cameron said. “We are grateful for the support of numerous regional members of Congress, who served as PHL's advocates in Washington on this issue.”
“We also appreciate the support and advocacy efforts of our regional business community, including the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia, the British American Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, Visit Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau and the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia.”
The end of months-long restrictions will come as a welcome sight to the airport, which said that international travel generates roughly $2 billion in revenue per year for the local economy.
Cameron said that it will take time for the region to reach that amount again. American Airlines has already committed to restoring PHL as its international hub, Cameron said.
“With the restored status, we are poised to rebuild and restore these critical international links that serve as major economic drivers not only for Philadelphia, but for surrounding counties in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, too.”
The airport, as well as its stakeholders, have been facing multi-million dollar budget deficits due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the travel industry, Cameron said.
“Funneling status alone does not solve our financial troubles and further relief funding for the airport is still a necessity,” Cameron said. “However, being able to accept international flights will help us recover faster and may save jobs that were on the verge of elimination.”
The airport laid off hundreds of unionized workers at the onset of the pandemic in March. Airport employees that faced layoffs included airplane cabin cleaners, wheelchair aides, line attendants, baggage handlers, and curbside check-in assistants.
Since May, all travelers and staff at PHL have been mandated to wear face masks in order to mitigate the spread of the virus. The measure will remain in place for the duration of the pandemic.
Passengers and employees who are eating or drinking, or who are alone in offices, are exempt from the rule. The airport has encouraged travelers to abide by its face covering rules by placing graphics on digital screens and printed signage across the terminals. Digital signage had already been in place on advertising screens, and PHL security personnel and staff have been tasked with enforcing the rules.