As Thanksgiving travel could reach near pre-pandemic levels, airports prioritize safety


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Despite COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in many areas, millions of Americans are planning to travel this holiday season. 

In fact, AAA experts are expecting travel numbers to be near pre-pandemic levels. 

“We anticipate 53.4 million travelers. That’s an increase of 13% from 2020,” said April Engram, a Communications Specialist with AAA.

Roughly 90% of those traveling plan to do so by car, an increase of 8.4% from 2020. Engram said this could be in part due to the ongoing pandemic. 

“Depending on people’s comfort of travel, we saw that people chose the vehicle because they could stay together, they could stay in a family nucleus, they don’t have to travel in public transportation,” Engram said. 

Yet, many people still plan to travel by air. In fact, it’s expected there will be an 80% increase in air travelers compared to 2020. And local airports are already preparing.

“This year we’re going to see about 100% increase or double the amount of passengers that we did last year in 2020,” said Andy Moore, the Airport Director of the Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport. 

Moore said some of the busiest air travel days are the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. He said last year they saw 27 departing flights on those days. This year, they have around 47 to 49 flights taking off. 

“It’s great to see people back traveling again,” Moore said. “Ultimately, demand drives air service. So the more people that we can get to travel through the airport and return, and go to those destinations for whatever reason, the better case I have in going to the airlines to increase flights, bring new airlines in, and increase those non-stops to different destinations.”

With COVID cases, safety has been top of mind for airport staff.

“We have custodial staff and janitorial staff on 24 hours a day, full crews, making sure that everything is cleaned and wiped down. There is a mask mandate. Many of our concessionaires have plastic or plexiglass at points of contact for communication purposes,” Moore said.

He added that masks are required at airports and on flights, so he recommends travelers bring an extra one incase they lose or break theirs. 

It’s also recommended that travelers plan ahead this year as things could look different due to the ongoing pandemic.

“Plan ahead and know before you go. So depending on where you’re traveling, maybe there’s still restrictions. Maybe masks are required on all public transportation, on planes, buses, etc. So just to know, all of your travel requirements before you leave and if you’re leaving the state, find out if that state has any restrictions as well,” Engram said.

To better help those traveling this Holiday season, AAA has an online COVID restrictions tool that gives people a look at certain safety restrictions in states. This includes things like capacity limits or masking requirements at public places. To visit that tool, click here. 

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