SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – As millions of Americans head home for the holidays, health officials continue to warn against traveling as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
AAA is predicting 50 million Americans either flew or drove to their destination for Thanksgiving this year. Overall airport bookings are down nearly 70 percent compared to last year due to COVID-19.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to put new recommendations in place asking travelers to stay home for the holidays, many travelers are still coming in and out of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. Many people News 3 spoke with say they just wanted to get home to their families for Thanksgiving.
“I’m excited. It’s so good to be home,” Traveler, Shannon Courtney said.
Courtney is traveling home for the holidays from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After the CDC asked travelers to stay put for the holidays she decided to go home anyway. She tested negative for the virus and plans to be tested again before going back home.
While there are many concerns to worry about while traveling during a pandemic, Courtney said there was one in particular.
“My main concern was the air circulation through the plane just because I’ve heard people concerned about germs and COVID spreading through the air channels in the plane,” Courtney said.
At the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport COVID-19 is still top of mind but the virus is bringing some negative impacts. Airport officials say they are seeing a decrease in travelers. The week of Thanksgiving last year the airport saw about 60,000 passengers. This year that number is down to 30,000.
“This airport provides a great economic impact on this region as a whole, so it’s very important to get folks back on the planes and back here in the airport,” Marketing Manager, Candace Carpenter said.
Operations are running at half of what they usually do. The airport used to see 60 flights depart every day but now there are only 30.
“When this happened it was kind of a huge setback for us so we’re looking forward to next year,” Carpenter said.
Many families are also looking forward to next year when the holidays are hopefully back to normal.
“It’s good to have them coming home for the holidays. We have some more in Pittsburgh and I wish they could be here as well but we’ll take what we can get,” Beaufort resident, Angela Bryne said.
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country, airport officials in Savannah say they’re prepared for whatever is to come around the Christmas holiday. They said they expect to see an uptick in travelers once Southwest Airlines kicks off their flights next year.