Holiday travel booming as COVID-19 restrictions loosen

This holiday weekend means lots of travel, but coming out of the pandemic, it’s higher than before. There’s more than 47 million people across the country traveling this weekend, with about 2.5 million of that in the central region.

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“It’s very exciting, especially after 2020 and the hit that the aviation industry took,” Natalie Chaudoin, director of public relations for the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, said.

Chaudoin said the airport is reaching its record levels of passenger travel that it saw in 2019. She expects the momentum to continue even beyond the Fourth of July holiday.

“Our capacity levels for this month are at 93% so that’s very good,” she said. “It leaves us very hopeful. We love to see the return of people traveling through. It’s good news for everyone, it’s good for our community.”

While full parking lots, garages, and security lines may be good for the airport, it does mean extra time in lines for travelers. Chaudoin encourages travelers throughout the weekend and the rest of the year to prepare to arrive an hour and a half ahead of their flight, to be safe.

“Now is the time as the vaccine has rolled out, people have gotten their shots, they have somewhere they want to go,” Chaudoin said.

Those included Stacy and Liv Johnston, arriving at the Louisville airport Friday afternoon to visit family in LaGrange, Ky., all the way from Oregon.

“We decided since things were getting a little bit better, we decided to make it happen this time,” Liv Johnston said.

The pair were supposed to visit Mother’s Day of 2020, but didn’t due to the pandemic. Now this holiday weekend, they’re finally able to see family they haven’t seen in over four years.

“It is really nice, it really is. It was fun to even see everyone on the plane,” Stacy Johnston said. “No headaches. Everything seemed to go really smooth.”

The two say they were surprised to see how many others had the same idea this weekend, with air travel up 164% this weekend from this time last year, according to AAA.

“We are expecting record numbers for travel this Independence Day weekend,” Lynda Lambert, a spokesperson for AAA, said. “That means we are back to near pre-pandemic levels.”

Lambert said AAA’s research shows people have confidence in the safety of travel once again. With vaccinations also increasing, Lambert said the number one factor for the high travel is likely “pent up demand because no one could travel last year.”

“Everything exponentially is growing as more and more people get vaccinated and restrictions are lifted. So memorial day was great and Fourth of July looks even better,” Lambert said.

AAA has also found of the 47.7 million travelers for the holiday weekend, 91% are on the roads, rather than flying to their destinations.

“Everyone’s just so stir crazy from last year,” Rebecca Thermer said. “Both flights were fully booked.”

Thermer and her son Caius landed at SDF Friday afternoon after traveling from Minneapolis, with a layover in Chicago.

“This is one of our first trips in a couple years actually so it was a lot of fun,” Thermer said. “We’re having some grandma and grandpa time this weekend for Fourth of July.”

AAA also warns drivers the price of gas has been increasing daily, sue to the increase in demand of travel.

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