West Michigan airports see rebound in passenger numbers

Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan airports are seeing the number of passengers increase rapidly as more people fly for summer trips.

Kalamazoo Battle Creek International Airport had some airlines suspend service during a portion of the pandemic. Those flights have since been restored.

Craig Williams, the airport director, says they have noticed a drastic improvement in the numbers of travelers.

“Things are really looking robust compared with a year ago. Not necessarily as strong as where we were in 2019 but it’s certainly positive signs as we’re coming out of the pandemic,” Williams said. “The number of flights are still staying relatively flat but those planes are fuller and fuller.”

The airport had 14,088 passengers last month and 1,659 in May of 2020 — an increase of 788% — but year-to-date traffic is down 61% from 2019 levels.

The Gerald R. Ford International Airport saw 236,047 passengers last month and 39,749 flyers in May of 2020, an increase of about 494%. Year-to-date passenger numbers are down about 33% compared with 2019.  

Susan Hernandez was flying from Kalamazoo Tuesday to visit family in California, her second trip since the pandemic began.

“My first time that I flew out it was like a ghost town. There was hardly anybody at the airport. Now I see that there’s more traffic,” Hernandez said.

Airlines are trying to keep up with demand by hiring staff and pulling planes out of storage. American Airlines recently announced it had to cancel some flights in parts of the country because of a lack of staffing.

“It takes time for them to get back into the system and that includes pilots and flight attendants,” Williams said.

Passengers say they are ready to return to the skies and are seeing a pent-up demand.   

“We have been cooped up so it’s really exciting to just travel,” Hernandez said.

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