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

ORLANDO, Fla. — Tens of thousands of people are expected to pass through Orlando International Airport Friday to mark the start of the Thanksgiving travel season.

Airport leaders said crowds could surpass pre-pandemic levels.

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More people are taking a trip after the pandemic forced people to put their holiday plans on hold in 2020.

Last Thanksgiving, the COVID-19 vaccine wasn’t available. Now, people told Channel 9 that they finally feel more comfortable to fly.

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It’s going to be the busiest the airport has been since 2019.

‘Everybody is even more comfortable with traveling,” said Tom Draper, chief of operations at the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. “I think that this holiday Thanksgiving is a big family holiday. I think that this is going to be a big holiday for us.”

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The American Automobile Association said the COVID-19 vaccine is fueling confidence.

“So last year, we’re in a completely different situation,” said Mark Jenkins, an AAA spokesperson. “A lot of people were staying home because vaccinations weren’t readily available and cases were up. Now it’s the complete opposite vaccinations are readily available and COVID cases are declining. So there’s a lot of confidence out there.”

The airport is forecasting more than 1.6 million travelers over the next 12 days.

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The Saturday after Thanksgiving is expected to be the busiest travel day, with 154,000 passengers.

If you plan on traveling at the airport, get there at least two hours before your flight.

You’ll need extra time to find parking.

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If you are picking people up at the airport, airport officials ask you not to park on the side of the road and to use the cellphone lots.

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