Tears and hugs as Thanksgiving travel season takes flight

ORLANDO, Fla. — No lines wrapped around the terminal Friday evening, but the Thanksgiving travel season was surely underway at Orlando International Airport.

“It’s like night and day between the two airports,” Angelo Baldado, who flew in from Syracuse, New York, described.

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Friday was not expected to be one of the busiest days of the week, with airport officials projecting 132,000 arrivals and departures throughout the day.

The next day, Saturday, was estimated to be the third-busiest, while the Saturday after Thanksgiving is expected to be the busiest at 154,400 passengers.

READ: Thousands of people expected to pass through OIA to kick off Thanksgiving travel season

AAA officials expect more than 53 million passengers to hit the road or take to the air or sea this season, down less than 5% from 2019 levels.

They said Orlando is the top destination within the United States.

For some families, the trips are extra meaningful. MCO’s terminal was filled with British passengers who finally took long-delayed trips to see loved ones.

READ: OIA wheelchair attendants hold one-day strike, citing ‘abysmal’ working conditions

Ed and Penny Grimley, from the United Kingdom, anxiously waited near the giant holiday tree to see their daughter for the first time in years.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Ed Grimley said. “We haven’t seen our daughter for two and a half years, and we were supposed to be here for last Thanksgiving. But we couldn’t come.”

Thanks to the airport’s massive layout, the Grimleys’ wait was extended by 30 minutes.

READ: International travel returns to OIA, boost to tourism expected

Then, a shout rang out. Ed spotted his daughter, and she ran into his open arms. His wife was just a few steps behind him.

“Thanks for letting us back in,” the Grimleys said, beaming. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

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