Holiday air travel continuing to rise locally

Christmas in the Panhandle

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB)– According to travel organization AAA, nearly 6 million Florida residents will travel 50 miles or more as they hit the road, board airplanes or take other transportation out of town between December 23 and January 2.

More than 109 million people — an almost 34% increase from 2020 — are predicted to travel across the country.

ECP airport officials said the busiest day to travel was Dec. 23, but they expect business to continue to grow especially heading into next week with many New Years celebrations.

ECP Airport Executive Director, Parker McClellan, said they are already into their overflow parking. He suggests travelers arrive early as you have to take a shuttle to the terminal and that can make you late if you have not planned accordingly.

“We had a very busy Thanksgiving, we parked 700 extra cars so we now have plans in place for those with concerns who may have traveled for Thanksgiving and are looking to travel again for Christmas,” McClellan said.

McClellan said even with the omicron variant on the rise they have not seen a major change in airport travel numbers.

“There are a lot of people who are ready to travel regardless of what is happening in the world, but remember you are required to wear a mask from the time you get into the airport to the time you get to your destination,” McClellan said.

Derek Patterson from Oklahoma traveled to the Panama City Beach area with his family, he said he and his family traveled to celebrate the holiday early in hopes of avoiding the hustle and bustle, while his trip going home to Oklahoma from Panama City Beach went smoothly, getting to Panama City Beach from Oklahoma was another story.

“We are from just outside of Oklahoma City, and it was really busy and we left early that morning and the lines were really long and security was really long so this [ECP Airport] has been the easiest check-in we have had to get through,” Patterson said.

McClellan said this season it is best to “pack your patience” and arrive 2 hours early to avoid missing your flight. He also said it is best to stay up to date with your flight’s status by checking it on the airline’s website.

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