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SLO Airport encouraging state's essential travel advisory but compliance is on the 'honor system'

Posted at 6:46 PM, Dec 17, 2020

New restrictions calling for essential-only travel are in effect in several regions of the state, but enforcing that may be difficult.

San Luis Obispo Regional Airport Director Courtney Johnson says the airport does not have the authority to determine if a passenger can board a plane or not based on the state's travel advisory.

"It is a request by the California Department of Public Health, so adherence is kind of left to the honor system and based on their definition of essential travel," Johnson said.

Despite the statewide guidance, some are flying regardless and say family comes first.

“COVID’s not stopping me from traveling. It hasn’t stopped me from traveling. It’s Christmas time. I need to see my family. That is essential to me," Arroyo Grande resident Lacee Breuninger said.

SLO County's Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein understands some need to travel by plane but strongly discourages it for reasons other than essential needs.

“There absolutely needs to continue to be flights. There are reasons people need to fly and we continue to ask that it only be for those essential trips," Dr. Borenstein said in a press conference Wednesday.

While the airport is not enforcing the essential travel advisory, they are encouraging it.

For those who decide not to fly, Johnson says most airlines are understanding.

“They will need to check with their specific airlines on restrictions when it comes to their ticket, but most carriers have kept their relaxed, change-in-cancellation rules that they introduced at the very beginning of the pandemic," Johnson said.

Each airline will also determine whether to take passengers' temperatures, but the airport will still be following safety precautions including mask enforcement.

“We do have a very good cleaning system within the terminal and within the aircraft to make passengers more comfortable and very safe," Johnson said.

The SLO Regional Airport reports a total of 50,000 passengers went through the terminal during the holiday travel season in 2019. This year, they are anticipating only about 20,000 passengers.