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Columbia Metropolitan Airport preps for holiday travel amid pandemic

'Pack your patience and come a little bit early,' the airport recommends to travelers.

WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia Metropolitan Airport has seen a decline in travelers since the start of the pandemic, but they're expecting to see more traffic for the holiday season.

"We still will see an uptick in passenger traffic around the holidays. So, what I always say is pack your patience and come a little bit early," said spokesperson Kim Jamieson.

Jamieson said CAE has seen a 62% decrease in traffic when comparing the first week of November to last year’s.

But with Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, their numbers are slowly increasing, Jamieson said.

RELATED: CDC recommends Americans don't travel for Thanksgiving amid rise in COVID-19 cases

The airport is maintaining the same safety and cleaning protocols they implemented in March to help keep everyone safe.

"We’re encouraging masks at the airport. If you don’t have a mask, there are free masks available at the information desk," said Jamieson. "We also have spacing markers throughout to ensure in those high traffic areas people are trying to be as socially distanced as possible."

Chella Passante, an out-of-town visitor, flew in Friday night for a friend’s baby shower. She told News19 she has flown multiple times during the pandemic.

RELATED: 1,479 COVID-19 cases, 26 additional deaths in SC

"The measures that the airlines are taking to clean and sanitize everything is extraordinary. So, honestly, [airports and airplanes] are probably the two safest places to be right now, if you’re going to be in the public," said Passante. 

Passante added that she's an avid traveler and shared this advice for anyone that wants to stay safe while they fly: "Just make sure you wash your hands, bring hand sanitizer, all the airlines are providing wet wipes, so you'll have that too, and just try to stay as socially distanced as you can."

To help with the expected increase in travel over the holidays, the airport is adding three more non-stop routes. They’ll be to Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando starting December 17th.