JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – During what is normally a hallmark travel time, Jacksonville International Airport was noticeably quiet and emptier than is typical for the day before Christmas Eve.
A steady stream of passengers was seen bustling towards the security line but didn’t spend much time waiting to move through the checkpoint Wednesday morning.
I’ve been doing holiday live shots at the airport for years, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen so few people here two days before Christmas. Travel overall is significantly down this year because of Covid. 🧳 ✈️ 🚗.@wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/MDxwycAacd— WJXT Ashley Harding (@WJXTAshleyH) December 23, 2020
Wednesday was expected to be the busiest day for travel to holiday destinations, but analysts are expecting the vast majority of travelers will stay home for the holidays.
It’s due mostly to the COVID-19 pandemic and CDC warnings to avoid flying. However, some passengers at JAX said today that life has to continue, even during a pandemic.
“We’ve flown some times during COVID, and I’m good with it. Life’s gotta go on, ya know? We tracked how things were with statistics, and it’s not so bad where we live. We haven’t seen our son for a year, so it’s just time to see him,” passenger Steve Earney, who is heading to Idaho, said.
Another passenger at JAX, Levi Sapp, echoed a similar sentiment-- that it had just been too a time that he has not seen his family. Sapp said he’s making a last-minute flight to Albuquerque to see his brother.
“I haven’t seen him in since he went into basic training in March. I learned I was going to be off work about six hours ago and made a phone call and said, ‘Hey, I can come.’ So, I get to go and see him. It’s going to be pretty neat,” he said.
At about 8:30 p.m., JAX told News4Jax that the TSA had screened 5,649 travelers, which is about 52% of the number last year.
Jacob Brown’s family greeted him with hugs at the airport. They hadn’t seen each other in nearly two years.
“It seemed lighter. Not as congested, actually,” Brown said when asked about flying.
Some travelers, like Antley Fowler, said the airports they traveled from were crowded.
“The line was the longest I’ve ever seen it to check in,” Fowler said after flying in from Denver.
On the roads nationwide, 81 million will drive 50 miles or more. That’s 29% fewer people than in 2019 at 119.3 million.
David Brubacker was driving with his family from Pennsylvania to Vero Beach.
“Its been congested ever since Washington D.C.,” Brubacker said, comparing the traffic to year’s past.
The airline industry will take the biggest hit with a 60% drop in passengers, according to AAA.
If you are flying the CDC recommends booking your ticket for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or News Years Day to avoid high-volume times. The agency also says you should distance yourself from others when possible, sanitize your hands frequently, and sanitize chairs and seats.
Masks are required at all airports and by all airlines. The busiest day for return flights is December 26.