Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA) has been in a sad state when it comes to passenger traffic for about a year and three months – however, with the COVID-19 pandemic subsiding, airport officials liked what they saw on Memorial Day weekend.
The large number of travelers is likely a good indication that people still very much intend to fly now that it’s possible once again. Across the nation, on Memorial Day air travel appeared very strong and some flyers reported being on full flights – something that, a year ago, would have been out of the question.
PTIA Executive Director Kevin Baker said this week that things are certainly looking up at PTIA.
“It was busy,” Baker said of the Memorial Day weekend passenger traffic that came in and out of his airport.
It’s not often these days that he’s able to use the word “busy” in relation to air traffic at PTIA.
In March of 2020, PTIA had some days that were really dismal, on one, less than 80 flyers came through, and, at one point last year, PTIA was trying to generate some revenue by serving as a giant plane parking lot for planes from around the country that weren’t needed during the pandemic.
Baker will know the official passenger numbers for the weekend later this month and it will be interesting to compare those numbers to Memorial Day weekend of 2019. There’s no sense comparing them to 2020.
“I don’t have comp yet to 2019,” Baker said, “but, in general, we’re up to about 60 percent of 2019 levels now.”
Baker added that, on Friday, May 28 – the day before the Memorial Day weekend – PTIA may have even been up to about 70 percent of the passenger traffic that the airport saw on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend in 2019.
PTIA has been using the year-plus downtime to upgrade its parking, air control tower, communication capabilities and runways. So, when things do return to 2019 levels and hopefully rise beyond them, the airport will be in good shape to handle the crowds.
There’s been one bright spot for PTIA throughout the pandemic: The amount of cargo coming in and out has been very high. In part that’s because staying at home all the time means that people do a heck of a lot of online shopping.