PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB)– The Northwest Florida Beaches Airport saw its third best month in history this March, meaning travel is picking up again. In March 2020, the airport only saw 64,398 arrivals and departures compared to this year, with 129,066 arrivals and departures in March 2021.
Sandra Monroe from Fayetteville, North Carolina decided upon Panama City Beach as her first vacation destination since the start of the pandemic in March.
“I was getting cabin fever,” Monroe said.
“It was great! I hadn’t seen my sister in six months and some of our friends too. It was great for my mental health,” Monroe said.
Monroe is not the only one to choose the white sandy beaches as her first flight destination, Janna Hoving from the Dallas area also decided to visit the area.
“Just hearing great things about this north part of the Panhandle and I grew up in the Gulf area so it was just a new experience,” said Hoving.
In April 2020, airport officials said operations were down 95 percent, so the increase in passengers is noticeable.
“We’ve seen a pretty good recovery compared to alot of the other airports around the nation. Anything with beach or wilderness seems to be the focus for the airlines right now, and with our beaches we make a big difference,” said ECP airport Executive Director, Parker McClellan.
Another reason could be the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine, both Monroe and Hoving credited the vaccine as a reason for feeling comfortable enough to fly.
“I feel like it’s been safe I feel like they’ve been social distancing, everyone is wearing a mask which is great, and I feel quite comfortable,” said Monroe.
McClellan said he anticipates this increase in travelers is only going to grow during the summer season, so he is encouraging those who are planning a vacation to pack their patience and arrive to the airport early with a mask in hand.
“I think this summer is going to be one to be remembered, whether it’s record breaking or not, I don’t want to go out there and say it, but I’m going to say we’re going to do very well this summer, said McClellan.