COLONIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — With the busy holiday travel season rapidly approaching, Albany International Airport is gearing up for the expected surge in passengers. While operations at the airport have surpassed over 80% of pre-pandemic levels, officials are expecting a bump over the holidays.
“We think that during the holiday period, particularly a couple days before Thanksgiving and a couple days before Christmas, we’ll actually exceed 2019 levels,” explained Philip Calderone, the airport’s CEO.
Last year, just over a million passengers passed through TSA checkpoints the day before Thanksgiving, compared to nearly two million the year before. On Christmas Eve, airports saw a significant difference in passengers passing through checkpoints, with less than a million passengers in 2020 compared to over two million before COVID.
“The start of the pandemic, 2020, we went down like 98% with throughput. Literally, people would arrive here 10 minutes before their flight took off and they made the flight. You can’t do that anymore,” said Bart Johnson, the airport’s federal security director.
With the expected surge in travelers, TSA officials are encouraging everyone to arrive two hours before their scheduled departure. Passengers should also prepare for possible scheduling concerns when taking to the skies. Staffing challenges and supply chain issues have caused mass cancellations and delays across the industry recently, problems that could be exacerbated by the holiday surge in travel.
“Make sure you’re ready to pivot and have alternate plans, just in case that does happen,” Calderone said when asked about advice for passengers who could find themselves in that situation.
“Just be patient. Make sure that you have in your pocket the email addresses, or website locations, or phone numbers that you can get ahold of somebody to find out, is it going to be rescheduled? How to reschedule?” Johnson added.
Despite the concerns, Calderone says the airport is ready for the busy months ahead, “We’ve had 20 months to get ready. We’ve made sure our airport has all of our employees full staff right now.”
The TSA is also urging passengers to review what they can or cannot bring onto an airplane when they travel this holiday season. While TSA’s 3-1-1 rule is in effect, anyone flying is permitted to carry-on a liquid hand sanitizer bottle up to 12 ounces in size.
Because of COVID, the TSA has worked to reduce the number of touchpoints when going through airport security. Johnson says anytime a piece of luggage has a prohibited item, it triggers an alarm and leads to additional touchpoints, something they’re trying to avoid.
Per federal law, masks must continue to be worn at all times inside of airports and aboard planes, regardless of vaccination status.