QUEENS, N.Y. - Just before coronavirus arrived in the city, the Transportation Security Administration was processing around 40,000 passengers a day at LaGuardia Airport.
At the height of the pandemic, it was screening fewer than 2,300.
But there are signs now that air travel could be slowly - very slowly - be bouncing back.
“We are seeing more customers traveling for their essential things - whether to see family members, weddings, birthdays, it’s slow. It’s been a slow return, but it’s been steady," said Ginny Elliott, VP of Delta Operations at LaGuardia.
Executives at Delta say the airline is taking every possible precaution to ensure traveler safety.
At check-in and security that means mandatory masks, plastic barriers, regular wipedowns, and hand sanitizer every step of the way.
But the real changes begin once passengers board the aircraft. It starts with a formal cleaning process.
Crews fog the entire cabin to kill any possible virus or bacteria that may have lingered from the previous flight.
Along with electrostatic cleaning before every flight, everybody has to wear a face mask for the duration of the flight unless you're eating or drinking. They're also limiting and changing the way you board, only 10 people can get on the aircraft at a time, boarding from the rear. And none of the middle seats are going to be occupied - only the window and the aisle.
"Once they step onto the aircraft, they’re asking reassuring questions like ‘Is the aircraft clean?’ and I just smile and say absolutely," said Joseph Andreso, a Delta flight attendant. "The planes have never been cleaner."
"I flew here this morning. I flew in from headquarters in Atlanta," said Henry Kuykendall, Senior VP of Delta Northeast Airport Operations. "From drop off at the curb, to getting onboard an aircraft and getting off at LaGuardia, and I didn't have to touch anything. I feel safer getting on a plane than I do going to a grocery store."
Delta expects to reach one third of its pre-COVID traveler capacity this summer. Right now it remains at 20 percent.
But it’s not forecasting that it will return to normal levels of travel for at least two to three more years.