Tri-Cities Airport sees significantly lower holiday travel numbers

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BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Despite the plea for people not to travel this holiday, some traveled to see both close friends and relatives.

Holiday air travel is significantly lower than years’ past, but Tri-Cites Airport officials said their numbers have been higher than the national average.

“From last year to this year — oh yeah, it’s a lot less hectic,” said Christopher Zintack who is from Twin Falls, Idaho.

This time last year, holiday travel was booming, but the terminals weren’t as busy at the Tri-Cities Airport on the weekend after Christmas.

“We were seeing record numbers of passengers coming through the airport in January and February then by mid-March with COVID impact that dropped off significantly,” explained Kristi Haulsee, the Tri-Cities Airport Director of Marketing and Air Service Development.

However, the Tri-Cities Airport still saw a higher number of travelers compared to the national average.

“The first part of December is as far back as I can get, or as far as I can get records” said Haulsee, “We were at 35% of our TSA Throughput numbers compared to 2019, and the national average was 30% for that same timeframe.”

The weekend after Christmas, people are now making their way back home.

“We are here visiting family, doing a lot of celebration; we had my mom’s 70th birthday — they’ve been married for 40 years — and just a big Christmas with my wife, my brother and his wife, and all of us just got together,” said Zintack who was traveling back home to Idaho.

The drop in numbers of those traveling this year actually had Zintack and other passengers relieved.

“A lot less people. It is nice kind of having that open seat next to you, and it seems more organized, I think.”

Dan Levesque is from Abingdon, Virginia and was traveling back home from the Atlanta, Georgia area.

“No, it wasn’t bad,” he said. “There were a lot of people, but the lines were not long; everything was moving. They had extra staff helping everyone move really quickly. It was no problem at all.”

On Christmas Day in 2020, the TSA saw over 600,000 total travelers going through checkpoints compared to over 2.5 million in 2019.

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