CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
Editor's Note: This story is a first-person narrative by WCNC photojournalist Michael Hanson. He went to Charlotte Douglas International Airport to see how COVID-19 has impacted travel.
Walking inside Charlotte Douglas International Airport is a surreal experience now. These are the notes of our 90 minutes walking around on April 7, 2020.
The "authorized media" parking is out by the old tower and so journalists have to traverse through the rental car area inside the hourly parking deck to get to the baggage claim area. The first thing that you notice is the sound -- there is none.
There are no cars driving around. The rental cars are lined up ready to go, but there's no one to drive them.
Inside the baggage claim area, we meet our first of three passengers: Bob Miller had his mask, gloves, and is waiting for his bag. He came to North Carolina for a somber reason.
"I'm here for a funeral," Miller said. "My Dad passed away, but he didn't die from the virus."
Miller flew in from Iowa, less than 10 people flew with him into Charlotte.
"I fly back on Friday," he said. "Right now we are going to have a normal funeral, but only small groups will be allowed inside at a time."
Moving upstairs we see ticket counter workers, a few pilots, a number of cancelations on the big board, and a woman in a pink mask and gloves. She had a moment to talk with the news.
WCNC Charlotte asked, how did it feel coming to Charlotte?
"I have to honest with you, I was very leery -- as a mother, I had to do what I had to for my daughter," said Cindy Toledo, flying home to Long Island. "I had to do it. Basically, I'm going to go home, strip down and take a shower before I greet anybody in my house."
Toledo says she came to down to the Queen City to help her daughter, and newborn granddaughter recover from the virus. On the way down, her connecting flight to Charlotte had five people on it.
"I know," she said. "It was surprising. We had more than six feet between us. The airports are decollated."
Toledo shares some good news with us: "My family is good. Everybody is good. I left the house well and hopefully will stay well until we meet again."
Later, some construction workers pass by a closed up Starbucks. They are wearing the now-famous "N95" masks.
They are the only ones with such a luxury. Pilots, Flight Attendants, TSA Agents, Counter Workers, Maintained staff, and cops do not have them.
Only checkpoints C and D are open.
Near Checkpoint D we meet Javier Davis, a young man in his 20s, tall and slender.
"I'm going to Seattle to see relatives I haven't seen in years. I booked this flight back in mid-February. I thought about a refund, but they wanted to issue me a certificate for another flight and I didn't want to do that."
WCNC asked Davis about any sanitizer he may have brought with.
"Nope," he said. "I don't have any. I couldn't find any to buy. I'm ok with the risk."
On the way back to the news car, we see the long-term parking shuttle bus. No one is on the bus. A sign on the front door says to enter through the rear door. The bus driver isn't wearing a mask.
Three cabs are behind the bus not far away. We asked the first cabby how long he's been here. It's now past midday.
"Since 5 a.m.," Kwaku Sarfo said. "I am still waiting for my first customer."
Sarfo owns his cab. Like everyone WCNC met Tuesday, he is worried about his future.
"If things don't improve by the end of the month, I'm in big trouble," he said.
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