flying during a pandemic

Flying During a Pandemic: What to Expect at TPA

While 2020 may be the year of the summer staycation, some families are opting to cautiously travel by air, whether by necessity or a desire to see out-of-state relatives after months of quarantine.

Tampa International Airport is reporting a slow and steady rise in passengers after a steep plunge in late March, though traffic is not nearly what it was pre-pandemic. In June, the airport saw an average of approximately 15,000 daily passengers, compared to the 70,000 to 80,000 daily passengers that went through TPA this time last year.

Related: Flying with Car Seats: Expert Advice On What You Need to Know Before You Go

Families that do fly can expect a different experience at airports and aboard aircraft, thanks to several health and safety measures in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other illness. 

“While we know there’s an eagerness among our travelers and employees to resume our normal lives again, that new normal may look very different than what we were accustomed to pre-COVID 19,” Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano said. “Keeping people safe is always our top priority at TPA, and as people plan to come back, we want to ensure we are offering an environment that is clean, healthy and ready for business.”

In late April, the airport put into action a plan it calls “TPA Ready,” made up of a number of changes designed to reduce the spread of germs. Several airlines also have new protocols in place, as well as new TSA procedures at checkpoints. Here’s what to expect if you’re flying in and out of Tampa this summer:

  • FACE MASKS: All passengers and guests over the age of 2 should wear face masks while at the airport and on the plane. Many of the airport newsstand shops now sell masks in case you forget yours.
  • HAND SANITIZER: While hand sanitizer dispensers are more readily available throughout the airport, passengers are now allowed to bring up to 12-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer in their carry-on luggage instead of the usual 3.4-ounce limit.
  • ARRIVE EARLY: Passengers should plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours before departure to help prevent crowding caused by last-minute rushing before scheduled flights. Social distance markers help guide passengers on where to stand but it can sometimes slow down lines.
  • LIMIT TOUCHPOINTS: Travelers should use carry-on luggage and mobile boarding passes to limit touchpoints. At the TSA checkpoints, passengers are asked to scan their own boarding passes.
  • TRAVELERS ONLY: Those picking up or dropping off passengers should not enter the Main Terminal; instead they should use the Cell Phone Lot or stay in their vehicles in the Short Term Garage unless they are assisting unaccompanied minors, passengers with disabilities or others who need assistance.
  • LIMITED AMENITIES: Some of the airport’s facilities and amenities may not be available or may have reduced capacity and will reopen in phases when it is safe to do so. Travelers should check on the availability of parkingdiningshopping and amenities before coming to the airport. Some of the more popular family-friendly options, such as Wendy’s and Chick-Fil-A, are open.
  • AIRLINE REQUIREMENTS: Requirements such as the mandatory use of face coverings may vary by airline. Check with your airline for additional guidelines before coming to the airport.

For more information about TPA’s changes due to COVID-19, go to