ROANOKE, Va. – Holiday travel is already in swing with more people hitting the road rather than flying by air.
On Tuesday, 700 people came through the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport, making it the busiest day the airport has seen since start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s still trending above the national average and it’s a significant bump from where we were a couple of weeks ago,” said Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport marketing and air service development director Brad Boettcher.
But overall, it looks like airports are taking a major hit, as this year is already a record-breaking one, according to AAA.
“We anticipate this Thanksgiving to be the lowest number of air travelers on record,” said AAA government and public affairs manager Martha Meade.
Over at ROA, Boettcher said the airport’s traffic is down 40%.
“From our perspective with the pandemic, we came into it with fairly low expectations,” Boettcher said.
Instead, 82% of holiday travelers are opting to drive this year, Meade said.
Don Leyder is one of them, as he made a trip from Georgia to Pennsylvania this week.
“You know the more people, the more risk. Everyone doesn’t follow the guidelines,” Leyder said. “Why subject that when I can take my personal vehicle and be safe.”
Meade added, “They can make the decision to travel very last minute which we are finding a lot of people doing.”
That’s the reason why the Weight family hopped in the car and planned to stop by Lexington before heading to Moseley.
“We actually want to get together with other family over Christmas but we might not,” James Weight said. “So I think it’s great we are able to get together now for Thanksgiving.”
Boettcher said they don’t expect the return traffic to be nearly as heavy as the outbound traffic, especially since college students may not return until the new year.