Travel through Portland International Airport has been especially slow to rebound from the pandemic, consistently lagging the national recovery.
In recent months, though, the pace of travel through PDX has been picking up – and that means Thanksgiving travel through the airport could be busier than it’s been in years.
“We are intensely focused on encouraging travelers to get to the airport at least two hours early, especially if they’re traveling between 5 and 9 a.m.,” said Kama Simonds, spokesperson for the Port of Portland, which runs the airport.
PDX passenger volumes in September were more than 80% of their pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest data from the port. Nationally, flights are nearing 90% of their levels from before the pandemic.
Many factors figure into Portland’s comparatively slow recovery, including its reliance on business travel, the fact that it’s not a major hub for any airline, a falloff in international flights and reputational damage that accompanied 2020′s unrest and the city’s ongoing surge in violence.
Airlines that used to have five flights a day between cities in the Bay Area now might have three, Simonds said. Airlines that might send three small planes to Los Angeles each day might now just send one larger plane, making more efficient use of their aircraft and adapting to a national pilot shortage.
Even so, the gap between PDX’s recovery and growth in national air travel has closed considerably and the total number of Portland passengers is up more than 30% through the first nine months of 2022.
Despite surging inflation, unemployment remains low and consumer spending remains high. People are apparently eager to return to their pre-pandemic lifestyles, enjoying vacations and catching up with family and friends.
Thanksgiving isn’t usually the airport’s busiest time of year – summer months are still more popular. But the holiday compresses much of this month’s travel into a 10-day period, meaning PDX will be especially crowded during the coming stretch.
The airport anticipates it will have adequate parking, according to Simonds, but individual lots may fill up around the holiday. So she advises checking the PDX website in advance to scout which lots have space.
Ongoing terminal construction leaves less room in the ticketing area and means the routes to individual gates may be unfamiliar, Simonds said. The airport will have guides on hand to provide directions, but she said the morning hours especially – when a crush of early flights leave to reach East Coast by day’s end – could be a bit crazy.
“We don’t want it to be stressful. Give yourself plenty of time,” Simonds said. “There will be people there to help.”
This is Oregon Insight, The Oregonian’s weekly look at the numbers behind the state’s economy. View past installments here.
— Mike Rogoway | firstname.lastname@example.org | 503-294-7699 | Twitter: @rogoway |
Our journalism needs your support. Please become a subscriber today at OregonLive.com/subscribe.