Bay Area airports prepare for holiday travel season

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Air travel is slowly picking up from the lowest levels of the pandemic.

Leading into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Bay Area airports are preparing for the next two weeks to be among the busiest travel days of the year.

The numbers will still fall far short of last year.

Airlines have added more flights for Thanksgiving.    

In recent months, frequent fliers in the Bay Area have noticed planes are slowly filling up.

“When I first started there was maybe, the plane was half full. And, now the planes are pretty full now,” Patricia Thornton said. 

Despite adding flights, air traffic still pales in comparison to pre-pandemic levels.

At San Francisco International Airport, spokesperson Doug Yakel says only half of the airlines that previously operated at SFO have returned.

“Right now, we’re still at only about 40-percent of the flights that airlines were planning on flying at this time of year,” Doug Yakel said. 

Although the numbers have been improving over the past few months, here at SFO, air traffic is still down significantly to about 25-percent of what it was at this same period last year.

Last year, on an average day, 80,000 people would be flying. Right now, that’s down to about 20,000.

“Doesn’t surprise me that it’s down quite a bit for air travel,” Rob Hiatt said. 

Mineta San Jose and Oakland international airports expect Thanksgiving to be the busiest travel period during the pandemic.

In Oakland, passenger levels are 30-percent of last year’s but that is expected to grow to more than 50-percent for the holiday.

A trip advisor report says more than 75-percent of the people planning to travel will choose to drive.

“I don’t know anyone that’s flying just for Thanksgiving holiday. I know families within driving distance are doing that,” Hiatt said. 

Overall, AAA Northern California says Thanksgiving holiday travel will drop 13-percent.

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