DALLAS — David Finn is a Dallas-based attorney who needed to head down south for a hearing. He ended up being the only passenger on his Southwest flight from Dallas to Houston on Tuesday.
Amid coronavirus fears, travel has sharply dropped.
"It just stood out to me. I've never seen anything like it. There was nobody in line for security and nobody at the Starbucks," Finn said.
Finn said he witnessed more of the same in the airport itself. He said many people were wearing masks and most were mindful of social distancing in the airport.
Denny Kelly, who is a long-time airline captain and now a consultant, called these "scary" times for airlines. The last time he remembers a full-out stalling of flights was during 9/11. But Kelly reinforces that flights were only grounded for a week before the industry started to turn around again. Kelly fears the turn-around for the industry following the coronavirus outbreak will be long-term.
"This is the most amazing thing for the airline industry I've ever seen," said Kelly.
Kelly said airlines are likely hemorrhaging money. To put this in perspective, he said just the operating costs of a plane on one route values around $5,000 to $20,000 an hour. This significant downturn in travel affects pilots, flight attendants, and all other support staff.
"I bet there are some airplanes flying out there with nobody," Kelly said.
Finn said if he can avoid it, he will not fly again. At least, not until this outbreak is over. He did, however, notice one thing about all the airline and airport personnel he came in contact with.
"People are a lot nicer. Everyone is looking out for each other," he said.
Airlines are hoping for a stimulus package that helps them, because bankruptcy is a very possible reality.
Kelly warns any stoppage of operations will take significant delays in getting back online. He said planes will need to be thoroughly checked and pilots re-trained.