ORLANDO, Fla. – As millions of passengers get ready to spend time with loved ones and friends, leaders at the Orlando International Airport predict this Christmas and New Year’s travel season will rival the busiest holiday seasons prior to the pandemic.
Airport leaders predict nearly 3 million people will travel through OIA over a 19-day holiday travel period that starts Dec. 17th. That will mark a 17% increase in passengers from the same time last year where the airport saw about 2.5 million passengers.
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They also predict the busiest travel day will be Jan. 2 with about 162,000 passengers, and the least busiest day they say is Christmas Day with more than 136,000 travelers.
News 6 ran into Cindi Santiago and her husband at OIA on Sunday. They said they chose to leave New York a day earlier to get back to Orlando. They wanted to make sure they’re home in time for Christmas.
“We wanted to make sure that we didn’t get any crazy madness on the way back in,” said Cindi Santiago. “I’m really big on family, and I’ve got a great team that I get to lead here in Orlando, so it’s everything for me to be back here with my family on time and my team to celebrate.”
“Later this week would be too much traffic, so I decided to leave early before I get caught up in the traffic,” said Kendal Meadows who was traveling through OIA to head back to the Bahamas.
Airport leaders told News 6 it’s too soon to say what impact winter weather in other parts of the country may play on flights to and from Central Florida. They say check with your airline and to check the airport’s website for the status of parking availability.
Airport officials offer the following tips for traveling during the holidays.
Arrive at least three hours before your flight to allow for added parking, ticketing and security screening times.
Parking could be a challenge. Consider being dropped off and picked up on the curb.
Do not wrap presents going through security. They may be subject to inspection.
Consider signing up for the complimentary MCO Reserve checkpoint reservation program, which allows travelers to select a screening time to avoid possible lines at the security checkpoints.
Take advantage of digital tools for travel assistance. MCO’s website orlandoairports.net, the MCO app and the TSA website offer updated information and tips for optimizing the holiday travel experience.
Be prepared for extended waiting periods at any stage along your journey.
“Pack your patience, take some time, get here early up to three hours if necessary to make sure you can get here,” said GOAA CEO Kevin Thibault.
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