Norfolk airport predicts busiest summer to date as airlines cancel flights due to staffing

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Posted at 1:28 PM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 06:35:14-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Norfolk International Airport (ORF) is expecting its busiest summer travel season to date, but passengers will likely see fewer options when booking a flight.

Charles Braden, director of market development for the Norfolk Airport Authority, says airlines are cutting back on their number of departures due to staffing shortages of pilots, flight attendants, and other employees.

Norfolk International will see a 4% decrease in departures this summer but says airlines are remedying the situation with larger planes.

"We actually will have fewer departures this summer, but they're using larger aircrafts that have more seats," Braden explained. "So our seat capacity is increasing while our departures are slightly decreasing."

Braden says this is being done in part to avoid cancellations.

"The airlines do not want to cancel flights, that's something neither they nor the passengers want to experience," he said. "So they are preemptively reducing flights at times that look weak or just in order to fit their supply of employees that can operate those flights."

This comes as April of 2022 was ORF's busiest month of April in airport history, with 349,685 passengers.

And the airport is only expected to get busier.

"We see vigorous traffic growth going forward," said Braden.

With more foot traffic, AAA Tidewater says you can expect longer lines and higher prices.

This Memorial Day, they are recommending travelers book their flights two weeks before the holiday. The company is predicting flights to drop from an average price of $470 to $445.

AAA also says it may be time to splurge on TSA Precheck. The cost is $85 for five years.

With airport lines expected to be extra long over the next few months, jumping the line could end up saving you hundreds.

"Inevitably more people is going to mean longer lines," said Ryan Adcock with AAA Tidewater. "Last month, 94% of TSA precheck passengers waited less than 5 minutes."

Adcock also suggests booking earlier departure times to avoid a canceled or delayed flight.

"Those flights that happen earlier in the day, they tend to stay a little more on schedule than flights that leave later in the afternoon," he explained.

Travelers leaving from Norfolk International also have ten more destination options than they did pre-pandemic, including nonstop flights to Las Vegas and Jacksonville, Florida.

Breeze Airlines is also opening a new flight to New York City's Westchester Airport (HPN) starting June, 20.