GREEN, Ohio — Native Ohioan Lila File flies into Akron Canton Airport every few months to take care of her dad.
In the spring of 2020, her travel experience completely changed from when she landed at CAK to when she returned home to Charlotte.
"When I left Charlotte, it was crazy full. I got here, and it was crazy full. I took care of my dad for about a week and when I went back home, there were 12 people on the airplane," File said.
The dramatic drop in passengers amid the COVID-19 pandemic took a major toll on U.S. Airports, including Akron Canton Airport.
"In 2020, we lost out on about $3 million in revenue," said Lisa Dalpiaz, the vice president of marketing.
Pre-pandemic, about 2,300 people passengers came in and out of Akron Canton per day. As COVID cases soared, that number dropped to only 60 passengers a day.
But people are starting to return. Dalpiaz said the daily number is up to 1,652, bolstered in part to the rising number of people getting vaccinated and feeling more confident about getting on a plane.
"With the vaccinations, we're seeing so many people come online and add. They're coming into the airport. They're ready to book. You see, the search trends just sky high," Dalpiaz said.
The airport also got a boost last week with the announcement that Breeze Airways is arriving.
The low-cost airline will offer nonstop flight to Tampa, New Orleans and Charleston beginning June 26.
"Breeze's mantra is that they're going to be getting you somewhere in half the time at half the price," Dalpiaz said. "People want to come back here. They want to go on vacation so it's a really good business model for Breeze."
While the rise in passenger traffic and Breeze's entry into the market are good news for the airport, there is still uncertainty surrounding Delta.
Delta suspended three daily flights to Atlanta last May because of the loss of business travel during the pandemic, Dalpiaz explained.
"It's something that we're not giving up hope on and we know that corporate travel will be back and so we're keeping in contact with Delta," she said.
With people more willing to get on planes, airport officials are optimistic about travel patterns over the summer and beyond.
Dalpiaz stressed the success of Akron Canton Airport is crucial to Northeast Ohio.
"We're putting over $1 billion in economic impact into the community and the region, so it's definitely a driver of tax dollars, of jobs," she said.
As for File, who is a nurse, she enjoys flying out of CAK and is excited that a return to normal may be on the horizon.
"We need to get our lives back. People need to travel and enjoy their lives."