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Air travel picks up again for the summer

In the last month, officials at Norfolk International Airport say they saw a more than 500 percent increase in travelers since May 2020.

NORFOLK, Va. — After a tough 2020, many people are ready to relax and enjoy a long-awaited vacation.

Airport travel is increasing at Norfolk International Airport. Officials told 13News Now that in the last month, they saw more than a 500 percent increase in travelers since May 2020.

“It feels like it's back to normal. It really does,” explained traveler Lauren Gidley.

Norfolk International Airport leaders saying it's feeling back to normal. They said they didn't expect this much traffic so soon. They noticed an uptick after people started getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I was quite surprised. I didn't think it would come back that quickly, what surprised me the most is how fast this airport used to be... like, all the restaurants were closed. Now they are back open,” Gidley said.

On Sunday, more than 6,800 people hopped on a plane in Norfolk. According to Charlie Braden, Norfolk Airport Authority’s Director of Market Development, that's the largest travel day since the pandemic. 

“It's good to see the numbers returning. We are still going to be short of what we were in 2019 which is the highest year in our history, but we are well above 2020 and well on the road to recovery,” he explained.

Some airlines are having a hard time keeping up with the demand. American Airlines canceled hundreds of flights this weekend and Monday because of significant staffing and maintenance issues.

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Braden said, “So far, we are seeing a little bit of an effect on the Dallas flights, if you're talking about the flights to cut back in July and August and it's had a little bit of an effect on the Dallas service... but overall it hasn't affected us that greatly.”

Norfolk International Airport officials are hiring more people, because of the demand for airport travel. They are holding a job fair at the airport on June 29.

People are not only traveling by air, but some are also hopping in their cars to get to their destination!

“What we are seeing is similar traffic patterns to what we noticed in 2019 in most locations. While it's not 100 percent back to the levels in our area, we are seeing traffic on its way to being back to normal,” explained VDOT senior communications specialist Nina Ullrich.

Ullrich said the HRBT is seeing similar traffic compared to 2019 during the Memorial Day holiday. At the MMMBT, traffic decreased last year but is now back to 2019 traffic levels.

She said if you're driving, please pack your patience. 

“We cannot remind people as much as possible to please try and drive safe and slow down,” she explained.

Message signs will be up if major traffic backups are in front of you. Ullrich said you can also dial 511 for up-to-date traffic information.