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Travelers starting their Thanksgiving trips early

Thanksgiving is Thursday, and this is the first time for some to travelers to see their families for the holiday since 2019.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and many people are already starting their holiday vacation. Some travelers at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) said they are ready to celebrate Thanksgiving after not being able to do so during 2020 due to COVID. 

"I have a mask on so I’m good, and I’m vaccinated" said traveler Julia Hunter. "I got COVID tested last week, and I don’t have it."

With a COVID-19 vaccine readily available for Americans, many feel comfortable boarding a plane and to see friends and family again.

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Some travelers say they are happy the federal mask mandate for travel is still in place. 

"I actually feel a lot safer that more are willing to wear masks around a smaller area, a smaller group of people flying in the air," said traveler Lauren Killian. 

Kim Crafton is the Director of Marketing and Air Service Development for the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. She said 2021 has been a big year for airports. 

"People are probably feeling more comfortable after getting vaccinated, after getting the booster shot, so they’re traveling more," Crafton said. "We saw a huge spike over the summer months of people going everywhere, so we’re hoping that trend will continue and we feel pretty confident that it will."

Crafton said the numbers of travelers are nearly double than they were in 2020, but are not yet the same as pre-pandemic numbers. 

Some holiday travelers are choosing not to get on a plane for Thanksgiving. Instead, they are packing up their cars and driving to their holiday destination.

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The Collins family is gathering with family for thanksgiving in Florida and are camping. 

"You’re out in the open," Carrie Collins said. "People haven’t been vaccinated, you’re still pretty safe because they aren’t close to you."

The Malloy family is traveling from Orlando to the Midlands. They told News 19 they feel comfortable with air travel, but it's expensive to fly with a big family. 

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"Our lives haven’t been hugely effective as far as gathering with family," said traveler Dan Malloy said. "We’ve actually already had COVID this summer, so we feel a little bit more relaxed that we aren’t going to get COVID or spread it right now. So, we feel comfortable seeing our family this year," said Shannon Malloy, Traveler.

Crafton said if anyone is choosing to travel by air, it is a federal law that people must wear a face covering while in the airport and on the airplane, no matter your vaccine status.

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