Summer air travel numbers surging in Central Illinois

Summer air travel numbers surging in Central Illinois

PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) — Airports in Central Illinois say travel numbers are up, but there’s still some work to do.

Peoria International Airport announced Tuesday new non-stop service to Fort Lauderdale starting in December. The new route is coinciding with a rise in passenger numbers this Summer.

“It’s very reassuring to see a full parking lot and to see people coming in,” PIA Director of Airports Gene Olson said.

July was PIA’s largest travel month since the start of the pandemic, with over 54,000 total passengers. That’s 80 percent of pre-COVID traffic after more than a year of stagnation. July’s passenger flow closely mirrors the five-year rolling average for July between 2016 and 2020.

A graph of passenger numbers at PIA, including monthly passenger totals from 2019, 2020 and 2021, plus the five-year moving average.

However, Olson still doesn’t expect to get back to 100 percent until business travel comes back in full force, likely still over a year away.

“It’s still not back to normal,” Olson said. “But it’s starting to feel like normal and to look like normal.”

In the Twin Cities, Central Illinois Regional Airport is following the same trend. Like PIA, they are still down 20 percent compared to 2019.

Deputy Director of Marketing Fran Strebing says people are ready to travel for fun again.

“That’s really where we are seeing the increase,” Strebing said. “People who wanted to go. People who were ready to go once they felt comfortable. And maybe some who had delayed their trips that they had planned in 2020.”

A July survey from AAA found travel confidence among Illinoisans is up nearly 40 percent since the beginning of the year. But with the delta variant surging, AAA spokesperson Molly Hart says the future is still unclear.

“People are going to be concerning the Delta Variant, and it’s a personal decision to travel,” Hart said. “We always recommend everyone follow the CDC guidelines.”



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