Midstate air travel near COVID-19 era highs — but down more than half compared to last Thanksgiving

Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — With COVID-19 cases surging and public health officials discouraging nonessential travel, Harrisburg International Airport is busier — on what’s often the busiest travel day of the year — than almost any day since March. Which is not to say busy by any other standard.

On Tuesday (the most recent day for which final figures were available) — typically a rather busy day, although not as busy as Wednesday, immediately before the holiday — 1,938 passengers used the airport, down 59 percent from the 4,679 who used the airport on the equivalent Tuesday before Thanksgiving 2019. That number rose to 5,219 on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2019. With final 2020 figures unavailable, Scott Miller, the airport’s spokesman, said it’s safe to assume travel will be down by more than half Wednesday, compared to the 2019 figure, to perhaps 2,200 people.

Thanksgiving Day itself is typically a quiet travel day. Just 1,875 people used the airport on Thanksgiving in 2019 despite healthy travel demand. This year, that number is likely to drop below 1,000, Miller said.

For people who choose to travel, in addition to common public health measures, Miller advised that they download their airline app and pay any bag fees in advance, to ensure as contact-free of a travel experience as possible. He said anyone checking a bag should arrive 90 minutes before departure time.

Counterintuitively, given the relatively empty airport, showing up on time for a flight is more important than usual, because airlines are offering barely more than half as many flights as usual. That means missing a flight means a longer wait, on average, until the next flight.

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