ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando International Airport is bustling. Traditionally, spring break is one of its busiest times of year.
Travelers are wearing masks but social distancing is proving to be difficult at the check-in counter and security line.
“It’s a little crazy. We feel safe and everything is OK, but it’s a little crazy to be back in crowds,” Hayley Sullivan said.
Sullivan, her husband and their two young sons caught a flight back to Buffalo Monday morning.
“We came for some warm weather and to visit their cousins,” Sullivan said.
Monday’s crowds are a big change from what the airport looked like this time last year: a near-empty airport following international travel bans due to the coronavirus. In 2020, spring break traffic was down 1.8 million passengers from the previous year.
The Stafford family also flew in to visit family over the past few weeks, traveling from Alaska. Their three young sons met their great-grandparents for the first time.
“It was a big priority for us as soon it was OK to travel again and we felt comfortable,” said Daniel Stafford.
Samantha Stafford said it was an emotional meeting.
“There were five generations of us there so it was special,” said Samantha Stafford.
While there is a surge in travelers at the Orlando International Airport, Tourism Development Tax dollars in Orange County have continued to take a hit.
TDT dollars took a plunge in March of last year near the start of the pandemic, losing about $15 million in that month. With small month-to-month gains since then, TDT dollars took a hit in January due to a surge in COVID cases after the holidays. It was a 70% decrease from the previous year, according to the county comptroller.
As vaccines continue to roll out, airport officials are confident travel will continue to increase.