By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With air travel down about 90% from this time last year, the industry is changing.

It’s common right now for planes to fly with lots of empty seats, and passengers often have rows to themselves.

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“I feel safer here than I did in Whole Foods, because there [weren’t] as many people here, everybody stayed their distance, and it was clean,” said Donna Jenkins, who flew into Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport Saturday.

Kyle Potter, the editor-in-chief of travel website Thrifty Traveler, says airlines will not continue to block off middle seats once demand for travel rises up again.

“They’re going to be hungry to make as much money on these flights as they possibly can by filling them as close to capacity as they can,” he said.

But filling up flights could take a few years.

Potter says airlines are in survival mode right now and will likely come out the other side of this much smaller.

He expects that will mean fewer available flights to choose from each day. International destinations may be cut as well.

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As for prices, Potter doesn’t believe that will be a place airlines will try to make their money back.

“The easiest way for airlines to [lure people back], and they’ve done it time and time again, is to cut their fares and offer amazing deals,” he said.

Routes between smaller cities may be curtailed as well, although Brian Ryks, MSP’s CEO, says places like that in Minnesota should be safe.

“The Bemidji, the Brainerd, the Rochester, Duluth communities still have retained their service, and I think they’ll continue to do so,” Ryks said.

Potter says another perk right now is the unprecedented flexibility to change or cancel flights for free.

To see what Delta shared with WCCO regarding its safety procedures, click here. And Sun Country Airlines shared this page on its safety update, as well.

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As for its service, a spokesperson said, “We have brought down our schedule in line with demand and will continue to monitor our network as travel demand returns.”

David Schuman