Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA) Executive Director Kevin Baker has had to guide the airport through its toughest year ever.

However, the holiday season is helping the airport look more like the pre-pandemic PTIA.

“The passenger numbers are definitely up over the last few weeks,” Baker said, “but still way behind 2019.”

Baker and the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority, which oversees the airport’s operations, will know more in mid-December when they see the first official stats for holiday travel in November. However, based on observations and other indications, there are a lot of area travelers who aren’t too frightened to fly during the current stage of the COVID-19 pandemic – a time when there are alarming news broadcasts about the disease every night.

Baker said this week that, while things are picking up and many people are returning to air travel, this holiday travel season still looks a whole lot different than the ones before.

“It’s probably 35 to 40 percent of normal,” Baker said.

That’s still a better showing than eight months ago when the pandemic first exploded. At the beginning of the pandemic, PTIA was almost transformed into a ghost town. On one day this spring, less than 80 passengers flew in and out of the airport and, at that time, Baker acknowledged that there were more people working at the airport than passing through it.

This year, the airport has been very proactive in implementing measures meant to help keep people safe and allow them to fly with some sense of security. For instance, PTIA staff have put up hand-sanitizing stations and have made signage and waiting area seating changes meant to encourage more social distancing.

PTIA has also adopted rules regarding the usage of facemasks and have limited the areas in which non-passengers can wait on arrivals or say goodbye before departures, that may have eliminated some last-minute parting-gate kisses and hugs for young love birds.