Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Around 65,000 travelers went through the Albuquerque International Sunport over the five-day holiday stretch, making it the second-busiest period since the COVID-19 pandemic reached New Mexico in March 2020.
From Wednesday through Sunday, the Sunport had an average of 13,000 travelers a day, according to Sunport spokeswoman Stephanie Kitts. She said that total falls behind only the second weekend of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Oct. 7-11, as the airport’s busiest weekend of the past 20 months.
“We’ve been hearing a lot of reports about completely full planes,” Kitts said.
While the passenger totals remain well behind pre-pandemic levels, they were significantly higher than the figure from last year’s Thanksgiving travel period, when the airport recorded a daily average of around 4,000 travelers amid a spike in COVID-19 cases in New Mexico.
And while the actual 2021 numbers fell slightly below the airport’s estimates, Kitts said the numbers bode well for the Sunport as it moves into its holiday travel season.
“It’s definitely an indicator that we’ll be very busy over the Christmas season as well,” she said.
The higher volume of travelers also meant reduced parking at the Sunport. In fact, the airport closed its economy lots from Wednesday morning until Sunday.
At its peak, the airport’s 3,400-car parking garage had only 300 spaces available, Kitts said.
Nationwide, air travel numbers over Thanksgiving were among the highest since the pandemic began. More than 2.3 million Americans flew during the weekend, which approached 2019 travel volumes.
In Albuquerque, however, Kitts said, the passenger numbers fell short of pre-pandemic levels.
In 2019, the Sunport recorded roughly 17,000 passengers a day over the Thanksgiving holiday, around 30% more than in 2021. Kitts said airlines’ reducing routes to and from Albuquerque contributed to the decline.
Despite a recovery that’s been slower than the national average, Kitts said she’s encouraged by the airport’s trajectory.
A pair of new routes – a Southwest Airlines flight to Hollywood Burbank Airport and an American Airlines flight to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport – are scheduled to begin in January, and strong holiday numbers help demonstrate demand from Albuquerque, Kitts said.
“We’re encouraged; we’re happy with these numbers,” she said.