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Tampa International Airport sees record travelers for Thanksgiving

It’s unclear how the omicron variant may affect travel going forward.
From Nov. 18 to 29, the airport recorded 800,000 travelers, according to data shared at a Hillsborough County Aviation Authority meeting on Thursday.
From Nov. 18 to 29, the airport recorded 800,000 travelers, according to data shared at a Hillsborough County Aviation Authority meeting on Thursday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Dec. 2, 2021|Updated Dec. 2, 2021

The Tampa International Airport saw a record number of travelers pass through its terminals around the Thanksgiving holiday.

From Nov. 18 to 29, the airport recorded 800,000 travelers, according to data shared at a Hillsborough County Aviation Authority meeting on Thursday. Traffic at the airport was up about 9 percent from 2019, before the pandemic, according to airport officials.

The busiest day around the holiday was Saturday with more than 83,000 passengers, said airport spokesperson Ashley Iaccarino.

Tampa was listed as a top U.S. destination for travel this Thanksgiving, according to industry firm AAA Travel.

The uptick in travel during the month of November put the airport on track to be ahead of pre-pandemic levels, said Christopher Minner, the airport’s executive vice president of marketing and communications.

Related: Tampa Bay holiday travelers, be wary of flight delays and cancellations

Airports across the country are still recovering after travel dropped to historic lows because of COVID-19. Traffic across America’s airports was down about 10 percent during Thanksgiving week, according to the aviation authority.

The Tampa airport had nearly returned to the same number of passengers it saw before 2020 this summer, but November was the first full month of reported gains, Minner said.

“We’re proud to be wrapping up a year of tremendous momentum for our airports, momentum that will position us for an even better 2022,” Tampa airport chief executive officer Joe Lopano said.

Related: Omicron variant may already be in Florida. What happens next?

The airport’s record month comes as the first case of the omicron variant was detected in the U.S. from a returning traveler flying to California from South Africa. Airport officials said they were cautious but optimistic that traffic will continue at current levels.

Tampa flights to and from London resumed last month and more international connections are expected to return.

While it’s too early to tell what the effects of the omicron variant will be, many safety protocols from the beginning of the pandemic are still in place, Iaccarino said. Hand sanitizer stations are still present in the terminals and President Joe Biden extended the mask requirements for air travel until March.

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