MOLINE, Ill — Despite a slight uptick in travel around the holiday season TSA is seeing numbers dip back down now that the holiday rush is over. The Quad City International Airport is looking ahead toward the months to come. They’re optimistic that they have past the lowest point in the pandemic and are headed for bigger numbers of travelers.
Darren Waters is a seasoned traveler. While most people put a pause on travel once the pandemic started, his job kept him moving.
Waters says, “This is about my twelfth or thirteenth trip for work throughout the pandemic. The airplanes are mostly empty.”
After plenty of experience, he says he’s quite comfortable. “All the airlines take pretty good precautions and most people are pretty courteous. They wear their masks the entire time.”
It’s not the same story for Mary Bruce. She flew for the first time since the pandemic started in January 2021, flying to go see her son in Texas. “I’ve canceled a couple of times because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve had it planned for about two months.”
She says for her it’s a calculated risk. “I was so lonely from my family I decided to take my chances.” Bruce hasn’t been able to see anyone since the pandemic started. So she wore her mask and her face shield and braved the airport.
The Quad City International Airport announcing January 12th that flights to Denver will be starting back up February 11th, 2021.
Executive director of the airport Benjamin Leischner says it’s a big step for the airport. “United stopped flying Denver early in the pandemic, this last summer, late spring.”
Three of the airports eleven routes were canceled due to COVID-19. This Denver route coming back signaling a sign of travel returning to normal for Leischner.
“I think there are a lot of people that were hunkered down in quarantine, postponing their travel plans through the winter and now they're starting to get that feeling that they need to book that vacation.”
For all the traveling Waters does, he says he’s seeing things slowly go back to normal. “There’s definitely been an uptick in the last week. I see a lot more folks traveling around the U.S.”
Delta Airlines canceled flights out of the airport to Minneapolis and Detroit as well. The airport hopes to get those routes back this spring.
Leischner saying, “It is a big win to get all of our canceled or suspended activity back. There are communities that lost air travel all together.”
The airport is focusing now on adjusting to post-pandemic travel. Leischner says they’re working to make travelers feel as safe as possible while they pass through the airport. “We’re putting a lot of time, effort, and energy into the experience and serving as the hometown airport where it’s easier, smaller facility, and trying to pair that service with our community.”
It’s a slow and steady climb back to normal numbers.