Flying for Thanksgiving? You’re not alone and Cleveland Hopkins is ready for the rush

A Delta airplane at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport
In 2019, before the pandemic hit, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport had its busiest Thanksgiving travel season in 12 years. This year's travel projection for the airport exceeds 2019 levels by 8%. [Karl Martin / Shutterstock]

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is expecting 280,000 air travelers over the Thanksgiving holiday season that began last Friday and runs through Monday, Nov. 29.

In 2019 before COVID-19 hit, Hopkins saw its highest rate of travelers — 260,000 — in more than 12 years. That number dropped to 118,000 last Thanksgiving. But this year, the number of travelers is expected to exceed even pre-pandemic levels by an estimated 8% to 280,000.

Simply put, people feel safe travelling for the holidays, according to airport Director Robert Kennedy.

“Over 200 million people are vaccinated and there's some pent up demand,” Kennedy said. “Seats are becoming available. Prices are a little up, but they're still reasonable. Some of the people that canceled trips last year, they're spending that credit that they need to spend for those canceled trips.”

Hopkins is ready for the increased demand, Kennedy says, and it’s following all COVID-19 safety protocols. But he warns travelers to prepare for crowds at the airport.

“Know what you can bring in, what you can’t. Pack your patience. Check with your airline,” he said. “There are a couple of weather systems out there. We're monitoring those. The airlines are monitoring those to see what accommodations can be made if they're needed.”

It’s exciting to see the longer lines and the terminals filled with travelers, said John Hogan, deputy chief of marketing and air service development.

“I'm also quite proud of our TSA [Transportation Security Administration] who process our passengers quite quickly, efficiently and effectively through our TSA checkpoints,” Hogan said. “So even though someone may be at the end of the line and they appear quite long, they're able to be processed in a very effective, efficient and quick manner.”

Masks are required in all airplanes and airports, as well as airport shuttles and buses. TSA allows masks to be removed only when eating and drinking or if someone has a medical exemption, according to Hogan.

“Personal responsibility is key to a successful, getting back to what we call normal, because we're seeing new flights coming in, bigger aircraft coming in here, new destinations coming in here. So, the demand is going to be there,” Kennedy said.

New service from Alaska Airlines will begin in June, with the airline offering nonstop flights between Seattle and Cleveland.

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