Harrisburg Int’l Christmas-period travel declines by less than U.S. average


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Passenger counts at Harrisburg International Airport in the days surrounding Christmas declined by more than half — but by less than the average decline for U.S. airports, according to airport figured.

From Dec. 22 through Dec. 28, the number of passengers passing through Harrisburg’s TSA checkpoint declined 52 percent compared to the same dates in 2019. Nationally, the decline was 57 percent.

The decline was driven by fewer scheduled airline seats and then a lower percentage of the remaining seats being occupied. Passenger load factor — the airline industry term for occupancy — was 58 percent for the period, which Scott Miller, the airport’s spokesperson, said was higher than the airport had anticipated. Dec. 27, the Sunday after Christmas, was the airport’s busiest day since March.

Health authorities, including Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, continue discouraging all nonessential travel, whether by air or other modes of transportation.

Cargo, on the other hand, including carriers like FedEx, UPS and DHL, was on pace, shortly before the month ended, to set an all-time record for December, in terms of the number of cargo flights operated at the airport.

Beyond the holiday period, the airport looked unlikely to continue setting pandemic-era passenger records. “When you get into January, which is always a slow time of year, we’ll see the numbers go back down again until the end of January, maybe into February,” Miller said.

Declines will drive more by some of the airport’s five airlines than others, according to an ABC27 analysis of Cirium schedule data. Here is the decline for each airline, in terms of weekly seats scheduled from Harrisburg for January 2021 compared to January 2020:

AirlineJanuary 2021 seats vs. January 2020
HIA overall-46%
(Source: ABC27 analysis of Cirium schedule data)


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