Holiday air travel surpassing pre-COVID levels

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 4:54 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2021 at 6:15 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Holiday travel is expected to vastly outpace the same time period last year, but Triple A expects it will still be down from pre-pandemic levels.

However, at the Charleston International Airport, travel has not just rebounded, it has surged back, surpassing 2019.

“We are as busy as we have ever been. This week could be one of the busiest weeks we have ever had in the history of the airport,” said Elliot Summey, executive director and CEO of the airport. “We will have somewhere between 20,000 passengers daily coming in and going out – 10,000 each direction – each day and the two days after Thanksgiving so we are excited. We like being busy.”

On Monday, the airport saw 8,324 passengers go through TSA check points. That’s up more than 40 percent on the same day in 2019 and 137% greater than 2020 numbers.

“We are outpacing the rest of the country by about 20 percentage points. Week over week we are breaking that 2019 numbers, so we are having a banner month,” Summey said. “If you look at starting in about July, about July 4th to now, we are breaking our 2019 number day after day.”

To accommodate the increase in travelers, airport staff have opened up special, holiday overflow parking.

They also have visibly more staff managing traffic at passenger drop off points. Summey says be ready to wait in lines if you arrive during peak hours.

“I think you’re going to be looking at 30, 45-minute wait times at peak periods, which, you know, when you have several thousands of people coming through at one time, that’s to be expected,” Summey said. “Especially our hours between 4pm and 6pm, those folks traveling in those time frames need to make sure they get here in plenty of time because that’s when you’re going to see a real rush.”

For tips on how to reduce your wait times as much as possible airport staff recommend the following:

  • Arrive early. It is recommended passengers arrive at least 2 hours before departure for domestic.
  • Follow all airport and airline COVID protocols. Masks are required inside of the airport terminal and on airplanes.
  • Double check COVID testing requirements for cities, states, or countries that you may be travelling too. This information can be found on your airline’s website.
  • Plan to park. Parking spaces fill quickly during busy travel periods. Our Holiday overflow lot will be available beginning Tuesday, November 23. Allow time for remote parking and complimentary shuttle services.
  • Pack carry-on luggage wisely. Head over to “What Can I Bring” on the Transportation Security Administration website to see what can be packed in carry on and checked baggage. Passengers should be prepared to remove electronic devices, liquids, powders and food to be separately screened by the TSA.
  • Check flight status with air carriers or on the airport website at

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