By David Schuman

Coronavirus: Latest News | Community Resources | COVID-19 Info | Download Our App | CBSN Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The once-bustling Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has been cleared out by COVID-19, leaving behind nearly-empty halls and boarding areas.

READ MORE: 'It Was Just Nuts': Severe Storms Leave Residents With Damage, Debris, And Outages

WCCO bought a ticket in order to go past security and see the empty boarding spaces firsthand.

Charlie Frent said she felt like a VIP on her flight from Tampa.

“Only one here [laughs]! This place is empty,” Frent said. “There were a total of six empty rows, and every seat that was taken, it was aisle-window-aisle-window. There was nobody in the middle seats at all.”

Cynthia Finnell is heading to Chicago after three recent deaths in the family. She says none were COVID-19-related.

“Just trying to get there and get through it,” Finnell said.

Their ticket fares are helping an industry on life support. At MSP Airport, air travel is down 92% from a year ago, meaning that for every 100 passengers then, there are eight now.

What were once busy concourses are now closed; temporary casualties of the virus. Brian Ryks is CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which oversees MSP and six other regional airports. He says this is worse than after 9/11.

READ MORE: Crews Battle Fire In Northeast Minneapolis

“This is a much deeper dive,” Ryks said.

He says parking makes up a third of MSP’s revenue, and it’s down 97%. Seventeen-million dollars has been cut from MAC’s operations budget. There’s also a hiring freeze which is saving $3.7 million a year. Forty positions remain open. No employees have been furloughed yet.

Ryks hopes that the end of the stay-at-home order will mean sunny skies ahead.

“It really is about what can we do as an … aviation industry to make people comfortable about flying again,” Ryks said

For Frent, the masks are big.

“Keeping me safe, keep everyone else safe,” she said.

All airport and TSA employees are required to wear masks. Travelers aren’t, although at a few airports around the country are requiring them. Ryks says it is being considered at MSP.

MORE NEWS: Minnesota Weather: High Temps Could Reach 90 Degrees Sunday

CONTACT US: Do you have a story about the COVID-19 pandemic to share with us? Please contact us here.

David Schuman