Holiday travel up at Ford Airport, not yet back to pre-pandemic numbers

Kent County

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Gerald R. Ford International Airport saw the second busiest travel period of 2021 over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Airport leaders said they expected higher travel numbers because of the major increases during spring break but added that it’s not back to normal quite yet. 

A total of 32,000 passengers came through the airport over the holiday weekend, which is just 2,000 shy of total travelers during spring break. The Ford Airport is comparing this year’s numbers to those in 2019 because 2020 was such an outlier year for the travel industry. 

Alex Peric, the airport’s chief operating officer said Memorial Day travel this year was about 80% of what it was in 2019, while spring break numbers were 86-87% compared to the same year. He believes with more people getting vaccinated confidence levels have grown among travelers. 

“A lot of the travelers are back especially the leisure travelers,” Peric said. “The business traveler is yet to come back in full force but with our numbers being 80% to 85% of where we were in 2019, especially during Memorial Day weekend and spring break, we’re feeling confident to end the year on a high note.”

As travel picks back up, the airport has been feeling added pressure from the impacts of the labor shortage.

“With the retail and restaurant folks, our parking program, a lot of our tenants have been experiencing the shortage. However, we have had no delays, no cancellations as far as flights due to the labor shortage but a lot of people are stepping up and putting in a lot of hours,” Peric explained. 

He said passengers can make their travel experience smoother by making sure they plan to arrive at the airport two hours before the plane is scheduled to depart. 

“We do experience some wait lines but if passengers can get here early, find a parking spot, grab a cup of coffee, relax and get to their gate on time, it helps out the airlines, it helps out the airport and the (Transportation Security Administration) checkpoints.”

The Ford Airport does still require the use of masks for all travelers because federal guidelines require masks at all transportation hubs. 

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