Forget the forecast: Here’s how many Midstaters actually traveled by plane, train and automobile


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s no longer just speculation or even a forecast.

New numbers crunched Tuesday morning by abc27 News confirm COVID-era records over Memorial Day weekend for all modes of travel — but some more than others. On the other hand, no mode of travel fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels of Memorial Day weekend in 2019.

Road travel came closest to a full recovery. In all of Pennsylvania, road trips were up by nearly half compared to Memorial Day weekend 2020, which left them at 85 percent of 2019 levels, according to the firm Arrivalist, which aggregates GPS data. This recovery — although highest locally among all modes of transportation — lagged the national recovery of 98 percent. “Rain, clouds, and low temperatures may have factored into travel plans” in Pennsylvania, a spokeswoman for Arrivalist told abc27.

At Harrisburg Int’l Airport, the number of travelers rose from nearly nothing in 2020 to 67 percent of 2019 figures, slightly lagging a national recovery of closer to 75 percent. The reason for the differential? Leisure travel has mostly recovered, but business travel hasn’t, and Harrisburg relies more on business travel than other airports, said airport spokesman Scott Miller.

Miller said he is pleased, considering where the year started, i.e., with travel volumes at scarcely more than 25 percent of year-ago levels.

“The combination of high cases, travel restrictions, bad weather – it was a tough time in January. If you told us then we’d be where we are now, we’d be happy,” Miller said. He said Allegiant and Frontier, which focus primarily on leisure travel, are doing particularly well; Delta, American and United, he said, have recovered well too but will depend more than the other two on a business travel rebound for a full recovery.

The airport’s load factor — roughly, that’s the percentage of seats that are filled with paying passengers — was 82 percent, Miller said.

Amtrak said approximately 3,000 passengers arrived or departed from both Harrisburg and Lancaster, which represented 45 percent of 2019 levels and was up from nearly nothing in 2019, when one of the two trains serving the stations — the Keystone — wasn’t even running.

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