Holiday air travel provides rebound to pre-pandemic traffic

The Memorial Day holiday took off Friday with an estimated 23,000 people flying out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

For some, like Salman Gopalani and his family, it's a chance to reclaim what was lost.

"So last year was the year of canceled vacations, I canceled a cruise, we cancel the Disney trip, it was a horrible year for family vacations," said Gopalani, who says he understands the pandemic isn't over and that the old way of flying has not returned. "So we’re still trying to figure it out it’s a little bit awkward,  but we’re excited to be out."

The number of Friday flights builds off of a busy Thursday. Nationwide domestic air carriers reported 1.85 million travelers. That’s compared to the 321,000 who travel on the same day in 2020. It’s a big rebound, airport officials agree, but it’s not yet a full recovery.

"So to put it into context, our busiest day ever was after Formula 1 in 2019, and that was about 31,000, a typical busy summer day we’re looking at probably 28 / 29,000 passengers, so we’re still down a little bit, but it’s getting back toward those numbers," said Austin-Bergstrom spokesperson Bryce Dubee.

Those who haven’t been to the airport in the past year can expect to see some new traffic patterns and some renovations. To help navigate, there are new roadway signs and an App upgrade with new interactive maps.


"You can actually order food remotely from your phone,  just find the concession you want to go to, with the little green logo on it, you can use the grab app right there,  order food, swing right by, pick it up, all contactless ordering," said Dubee.

Officials with TSA tell FOX7 that along with the travelers, a familiar problem has also returned to checkpoints: prohibited items found in carry-on baggage. Several stun guns have been confiscated by TSA recently, including 38 this month at Love Field in Dallas and 60 at DFW since the first of the year. A few were even disguised to look like cell phones and cosmetics. 

All the items on a table set up by Checkpoint 1 were examples of what’s been confiscated so far in the month of May. Knives, and novelty items, like an inert grenade, continue to be a problem.

"And of course guns, we’ve seen an uptick in guns, this year, as a matter of fact, TSA has seen more guns per passenger than any other year in our history," said TSA spokesperson Patricia Mancha.


Officials also want travelers to remember that face masks are still required in airports as well as on planes. The rule addresses a concern Judy Nguyen says she still has about flying.

"I think since it’s like a small space and maybe not everyone is fully vaccinated yet,  maybe someone will either have it or get sick from it," said Nguyen.

This is why flying out now requires doing much more than remembering what you can’t bring or getting back in the routine of arriving early. A nice travel tip to remember is something you can do before you start packing. Grab your carry-on, turn it upside down and shake it out. Check all the pockets and make sure that there is nothing in there that could delay your trip at the checkpoint.