CLEVELAND — Officials are Cleveland Hopkins International Airport are expecting a significant rebound in passenger counts for the week of Thanksgiving, perhaps eclipsing the pre-pandemic totals in 2019. According to airport director Robert Kennedy, Hopkins is anticipating an 8% increase in travelers over the next 10 days compared to 2019.
Kennedy said Cleveland Hopkins had initially forecast 5.2 million passengers in 2021 but those forecasts have already been eclipsed. Currently, the airport is on track to hit 7.2 million passengers. Although that number still falls short of the 10.2 million passengers in 2019, it would still be a remarkable improvement from a pandemic-plagued total of 4.1 million passengers in 2020.
“Last year, at one point, we had less than 700 passengers a day when we would normally have 35,000 in a day,” Kennedy said. “Our recovery here in Cleveland is really strong. In fact, we’re above the national average among of airports for recovery.”
That rebound in traffic at the airport was noticeable on Thursday afternoon as the TSA security checkpoints were busy, but not untenable. Passengers swiftly made it through the checkpoints to get to their gates.
Morris Thorpe, a native of Cleveland who now lives in Hawaii, was preparing to fly out of Cleveland Hopkins for Copenhagen, Denmark. The frequent flier and avid traveler has only flown once since the pandemic began.
“I love traveling and I feel good about doing it again,” Thorpe said. “You have to re-learn a lot of it because a lot of things changed because of COVID. It’s been so long. I really had a hard time packing today: What do I need? What do I not need? I used to not have to think about it.”
Under federal directives, masks are still required inside the airport terminals, in addition to other safety measures. Since this holiday season will be the first since widespread vaccine availability, Kennedy said consumers are feel much more confident in traveling again.
“We know the procedures and I think people do have confidence. Certainly they see what the airports and airlines do to ensure their safety,” Kennedy said.
That confidence, as well as the ability for people to quickly get in and out of Hopkins, has made it an attractive airport for future investment by the airlines, Kennedy said.
“You have to look at the strength of the Cleveland market place and where we’re pulling from, where our guests that come in and travel out of here,” Kennedy said. “We have a lot of advantages and if we didn’t the airlines wouldn’t be investing millions of dollars in equipment here.”
Kennedy said the airport and TSA are expecting to bring in additional staff to help handle the expected increase in travelers from Friday through next Sunday.
In addition to encouraging travelers to get to the airport two hours ahead of their departure, Kennedy also encourages people to check with the airlines as well as Hopkins’ website to make sure their flight remains on schedule. It is also suggested that travelers re-acquaint themselves with the list of items prohibited by the TSA.
“Just get as much information as possible and stay as safe as possible. Put a mask on and wear a smile,” Thorpe said.