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'Slowly but surely getting back': Columbia Airport reporting increase in holiday travel

Despite the high gas prices, AAA expected most people to travel by car this holiday weekend. However, the number of those flying is on the rise again.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — One of America's biggest travel holidays of the year, was expected to have more people travelling this year than we have seen in the past two years. 

AAA predicted that 3 million people would take a flight this Memorial Day weekend. 

However, airports across the nation, including the Columbia Metropolitan Airport still saw 9% fewer passengers than they did in 2019. 

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"It's pretty slow today, I just got here so I don't know if it'll pick up or not," said flier, Moises Flores.

Airport Marketing Director, Kim Crafton tells me the terminals saw a fraction of what they normally do around memorial day.

"Over this weekend, looking at Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we've seen about 8,000 people come through our airport which is a really strong number for us. This time of year has historically been a strong travel season and post-pandemic we're starting to see a rise in people coming back," Crafton explained.

On Monday, the average wait time to get through a TSA security check was five minutes in the afternoon, and 10 minutes for early morning flights.

Airport staff says the airport is normally bustling at this time of year with people trying to get to their summer travel destinations but, after two years of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the airport is still seeing some travel hesitation.

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"As we all know air travel really dropped off when the pandemic hit, and we have been working really hard to try to see our numbers return to where there were before 2020."

However, for some people travelling, like Jaeyda Lopez, she says the pandemic was a motivating factor for her to travel. 

"That's what it's been for COVID at least for me, I haven't seen my family so I said 'okay at least for this year we'll finally be able to do it' and then we can just do a road trip or something later on," Lopez said.

The airport explained that although this year's Memorial Day travel seems low, it is actually an increase from what they have seen the past two years. 

January 2022 saw a dramatic 81.50% increase over January 2021, with February of this year following suit with an even bigger increase in passenger traffic at 85.95%. 

The airport is still working to recover their numbers to what they saw back in 2019, with 1.3 million passengers. 

"We are swiftly returning to that state and we are excited to welcome people back to the airport," Crafton said.

The airport asks that people remember to pack patience for summer travel and to always get to the airport early for any flights.

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