FORT MYERS, Fla. — As many celebrate and recognize Memorial Day, some are on their way home.
Travel experts expected to see a jump as many families looked to get away this holiday weekend, something they couldn't do last year. It’s been a long time coming for some. Airport staff seeing their largest number of customers in a year and travelers flocking to their favorite destinations.
“It’s nice to be traveling again, to get out of the state of Maine!” said Andrew Simmons, visiting from Friendship, Maine.
“Well it’s like the world opening back up, people are getting out and doing things," says Randy Kempowski, visiting from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "We just shake these masks and we’ll be in good shape!”
For some of those passengers we spoke to, it was business as usual as they had traveled for work throughout the pandemic. While for others, it marked their first real getaway since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
“It feels like, pretty much, life is back on track," said Greg Sharp, traveling back to Fort Myers. "It sounds dramatic but with us being able to go to the airport and take a flight normally, apart from masks, then yeah- everything feels a little bit better.”
With millions expected to travel this weekend, airport staff was ready for just about anything. According to staff, they experienced quite a lot of traffic earlier this morning up until about noon. The busiest day they experienced was Sunday when those same passengers were traveling back home.
“Sunday was sardine city," said Candice Fogle, Operations Manager at RSW Airport for Eulen America. “The foot traffic is amazing. It just makes you feel good all over like it’s coming to an end. That’s what it does in my head. I’ve been here through the whole pandemic and it’s just crazy how it’s just rebuilt our lives back.”
In preparation for the expected rush, RSW had double the amount of staff working across the board.
“The holiday weekends are like Super Bowl weekends to us- we get a chance to really practice what we preach and there was a lot of activity Sunday," said Xavier Barrett, Station Manager at RSW Airport for Eulen America. "We had to call a few extra people in but we were able to keep everything under control, it was pretty smooth. It was a smooth, chaotic environment so we were able to keep everything together and it was nice.”
And staff say it’s only going to get busier here on out. Passenger traffic is expected to grow more with each passing day, up through summer.
“Summer time is going to be busy for us, everyone is happy and nobody is walking around with a sad face," says Barrett. "You can tell people are happy to travel again so it’s good news for us!”
As for any follow-up travel plans for some of these passengers...
“It won’t take long to plan another one!” says Sharp.
“We should be back in July," said Kempowski. "Fourth of July week we’ll come back home, I guess we’ll say for now.”
Airport staff says this weekend has been busier than Thanksgiving, which is regarded as one of the busiest holiday travel periods. Second behind Christmas.