NORFOLK, Va. – After more than a year of COVID-19, many are itching to travel again.
“I've worked from home, so I've been at home most of this whole time,” said Rineta Phillips, who flew in from Atlanta, Ga., to visit her brother in Norfolk. “I'm just ready to get away.”
Friday was Phillips’ first time flying since the start of COVID. She said she waited until she was vaccinated and now, after being bit by the travel bug, she has big plans for the summer.
“I would love to go and see some of my friends,” Phillips said. “One of the places I’m going is New Orleans to travel and [I'm] thinking about going to Vegas. I'm really excited about getting back out there.”
As more people become fully vaccinated and pandemic restrictions are relaxed in Virginia and across the country, air travel is making a comeback.
“We've seen a definite increase in the number of people traveling, really since the vaccinations picked up,” said Charlie Braden, the Director of Market Development for the Norfolk Airport Authority. “We’ve been under this pandemic situation for quite some time, and people are antsy and they're ready to get out and about.”
According to Braden, the Norfolk International Airport is expecting a 400% increase in travelers this Memorial Day weekend compared to last year.
That surge falls in line with AAA’s predictions, which believes 73,172 Virginians will fly over the holiday – a major jump from 2020 but still lower than from before the pandemic.
“We expect though that we'll be down about 15% versus Memorial Day in 2019,” said Braden. “We're definitely recovering a lot from the pandemic era, but we have some work to do and some time to go before we fully recover.”
Heading into the summer, Braden expects travel to keep ticking up, especially after a new budget-friendly airline takes off from the airport on June 10.
Breeze Airways will operate four days a week and offer nonstop air service to seven cities not currently served in the Norfolk airport. Braden believes it’ll draw even more people looking to get away.
“It’s a great increase in the number of destinations served,” he said. “Breeze is a low-fare airline that will be offering some great fares to a lot of great destinations. It'll make it much more convenient for the area's travelers to get to where they want to go, often at half the time and half the price.”
Before passengers take to the skies, don't forget to bring a mask. Whether you’re fully vaccinated or not, travelers are still required to mask up in airports, on planes and other public transportation.