AUSTIN (Nexstar) — AAA is predicting more than 37 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles this Memorial Day weekend, and many, for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
“First time flying since COVID,” Sherry Kelly said, as she landed at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), excited to see family.
“Can’t wait to see dad,” Kelly said. She’s one of millions of Americans returning to regular travel.
“Since the pandemic began, we saw maybe between 70 and 80,000 travelers on a daily basis. And that’s nationwide. Now, we’ve seen almost 2 million travelers on a daily basis,” Patricia Mancha with the Transportation Safety Administration said Friday.
Most of the travel has been for leisure, AUS spokesperson Bryce Dubbee explained.
“A lot of folks are getting out and exploring. They’ve been staying home, and now that there’s more immunizations and vaccination rates are going up, folks are going to get back out and travel,” Dubee said.
At AUS, daily passengers are slowly approaching normal again, with an average of 23,000 people passing through the airport right now.
“That’s getting close to what would be a busy summer day. Normally this time of year, we’ll be seeing maybe 27 to 29,000 passengers,” Dubee explained.
Once international travel picks up and more people become comfortable traveling, those numbers are expected to slowly return.
“We’re not going to see a full recovery this year, maybe by 2023, 2024, depending on the estimate,” Dubee said.
Even with coronavirus cases decreasing, you’ll still notice precautions at the airport.
“There is still a federal mask mandate in place for all airports in the United States,” Dubee said.
TSA is also allowing passengers to carry extra sanitizer for now.
“TSA made a concession, and it continues that people can bring up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer with them and all the bleach or alcohol wipes that they can carry. The 3.4 ounce-rule for liquids remains in effect,” Mancha said.
If you’re hitting the roads instead, the Texas Department of Public Safety is reminding drivers traffic is also returning to pre-pandemic rates.
“Pay attention to how much time it’s going to take for you to get to your destination,” Alex Navarro, spokesperson for TxDOT said.
She said she also wants Texans to remember the basics: click it or ticket.
“You want to get rid of distractions, you want to make sure that you’re putting on your seatbelt, and make sure that you’re putting it on properly. And then also just be mindful of your surroundings,” Navarro said.
May is also Motorcycle Safety Month, so she warned drivers to be mindful of motorcyclists.
“You want to make sure that if you’re behind a motorcycle, always maintain a safe following distance. And the reason for this is because when a motorcyclist downshift, instead of applying the brake to slow down, it can actually catch drivers off guard, since there’s no brake lights to signal reduce speed,” Navarro explained.