‘We’re fully expecting to see good crowds’: ENC airports prepare for holiday travel

Travel

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Airports across the country are getting ready for a possible influx of travelers during the holiday season.

Airport directors in Eastern North Carolina said airplanes are full again. It’s a welcomed sight after the airline industry suffered in 2020.

“Eighty-seven percent of seats last month were sold and filled with passengers,” said Chris White, director at Albert J Ellis Airport in Onslow County. “Many airports are experiencing that. This summer and fall have been surpassing 2019, especially the smaller cities near the beaches and the mountains.”

White said OAJ is getting back to pre-pandemic levels of customers.

“The airport is within about five percent of where it was at this point in 2019,” he said. “We’re virtually recovered from that perspective. But travel is a whole lot different than it was back in 2019.”

Some of those changes include a federal mask mandate, as well as some new TSA procedures. That isn’t deterring people from catching flights.

“People are going to beaches,” said White. “People are going to the mountains. People are starting to do things like weddings again. Business travel has also picked up.”

The Pitt-Greenville Airport is seeing the same trends, but there is still one difference.

“Before the pandemic, we were at five turnarounds a day and now we’re at three turnarounds a day,” said Bill Hopper, PGV’s executive director.

Hopper attributes fewer flights to a shortage of pilots and planes.

“If we have more planes, I’d say we’d be seeing increases in numbers, but because I guess the amount of product if you want to call it that is not available, we don’t anticipate seeing an increase,” he said.

Even so, both directors expect to see aircraft cabins full in the upcoming months.

“People want to get out on the road and see family and friends and experience things differently, so we’re fully expecting to see good crowds,” said White.

Directors said there are still good deals on holiday flights, but there is a possibility ticket prices could go up because of rising fuel costs.

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