CLEVELAND — Newly-released passenger totals show a slight uptick in the number of passengers flying in and out of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in May, but the number of travelers so far this year is down nearly 2 million from the first five months of 2019 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the airport, Hopkins saw just under 90,000 passengers in May. That’s up from just over 30,000 flyers in April, but down more than 90% from the 906,984 passengers CLE reported in May 2019.
After months of coronavirus restrictions, Jim Garrity, spokesman for AAA East Central, is encouraged by the slight increase and believes there’s pent-up demand for travel.
“Where we’re seeing a lot of folks get back to traveling is road tripping,” said Garrity, “but we are definitely seeing folks who are going back to domestic flights.”
Garrity said it’s unclear how fast passengers will return to the sky but he believes it will largely be driven by travelers’ comfort levels.
“End of the day, you’re the one who makes the decisions about where am I traveling, am I comfortable with traveling, when are we traveling, can we afford to travel,” said Garrity.
And that level of comfort can vary.
“I’m okay,” said Kadeem Yourke of Cleveland, “I came from Thailand, came here to Cleveland, then booked a flight from Cleveland to Orlando and Orlando back to Cleveland. I’m not very nervous. I think things are sanitary. People are taking precautions so I think it’s okay.”
But not everyone stepping off an airplane seemed ready to get back on, despite safety measures aimed at limiting the spread of the virus.
“Too much uncertainty,” said Lena Weaver as she waited for her luggage after a trip to Florida to see family. “Here it’s be careful, wash your hands, wear a mask, do all of this. But once you’re up in the air, it’s like just keep your mask on.”
During the pandemic, airlines have reduced the number of flights in and out of Cleveland.
According to the airport’s figures, the number of planes landing at Hopkins dropped nearly 13% in May compared to April and is down more than 35% year-to-date compared to 2019.
In a statement, the city said it expects airlines to expand their routes and add flights to Hopkins through the summer.