Spring Break boosts travel numbers to pre-pandemic levels

Gerald R. Ford International Airport anticipates seeing a “dramatic increase” in passengers during the next two weeks.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As schools across West Michigan gear up for Spring Break, travel numbers are rising to the highest levels since the pandemic started. Gerald R. Ford International Airport, is among airports bracing for a busy couple of weeks.

“So, over the next couple of weeks, we are expecting approximately 5,000 to 6,000 passengers per day. We’ve been running the numbers, and we’ve been talking to all of our air carriers here, and a lot of them are back to those pre pandemic flight departures,” says Alex Peric, COO, Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority. “So, we have the leisure traffic is back. As far as business travel, we’re still expecting it to return. They have not returned to those pre pandemic levels yet, so. But, a lot of leisure passengers are back.”

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Peric says Spring Break is always a busy time of year. However, that wasn’t the case in 2020, when COVID restrictions were just taking hold. Last year, travel numbers had dropped to 4% of where they were the previous year. Peric says it was definitely a low period as far as passenger numbers go.

That dip in traffic, due to the pandemic, came on the heels of a lot of growth at Ford Airport, including a record Spring Break, in 2019. Peric believes, in the days ahead, they may get close to those record-breaking travel numbers, they saw two years ago. If so, Spring Break could be, just, the beginning of a long-term rebound.

“So we’re expecting to see around 52,000 travelers come through the airport during the Spring Break time which, you know, compared to last year, I mean that that’s a dramatic increase,” he said. “We are expecting around 87% of the traffic, of the 2019 levels, through the next couple of weeks. So, between April 1 and April 10. So, when you compare that to 2019, which was a record time for us, we’re almost to 100% of what we had seen in 2019.”

That said, Peric advises passengers to revert back to the same habits they followed pre-pandemic. That means, arriving 2 hours before the scheduled flight departure and following TSA rules, so they can get through checkpoints easily and without delay.

“So our parking numbers are increasing, as passenger numbers increase,” said Peric. “You know arrive early to make sure you find a good parking spot. Our parking garages and lots are filling up, so make sure you’re here early enough to get yourself a good spot, get through TSA security and relax and wait for your flight.”

Passengers who have not, yet, traveled during the pandemic will notice many differences. They include, social distancing markers throughout the facility, sneeze guards at the ticketing check-in counters, rental car centers, and departure gate areas. Peric says passengers are also reminded to wear facial coverings and masks, which are mandated on airport property.”

“When the pandemic first hit, we were aggressive in increasing our sanitization protocols, and our cleaning protocols. We’ve deployed numerous hand sanitizers throughout the terminal building, so those have remained. As well as, with all the seating areas and the restrooms. we’ve stepped up those protocols,” says Peric.

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