NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Pandemic fears are fading, and hot temperatures are sliding back in to the 757, and that means the busy travel season is upon us.
Norfolk International Airport is already seeing its fair share of goodbye hugs as folks take to the skies.
Steve Sterling, Deputy Executive Director at Norfolk International Airport, says they’ve jumped from 18 destinations to 34 as travel continues to shoot up. He’s warning travelers to pack their patience and get to the airport at least an hour and a half early.
While employees are doing all they can to keep operations running smoothly, Sterling says there’s still a staff shortage. That goes for airline workers down to retail and food and beverage stores in the airport.
“One of the things travelers will notice is some of our food and beverage concessions are limited at this point. That’s due to staffing shortages,” said Sterling.
When it comes to the impact of airline employees, he says American Airlines has had to cancel some flights because of those staffing issues.
“We have not noticed a lot of cancellations; we have seen a few cancellations of American over the past week. But, by and large, they’re sticking to the schedule here at Norfolk,” said Sterling.
Among those in the airport lobby with neck pillows and suitcases was Jacquie Dial and her husband. They came in town to visit their son in the Navy and say fortunately they dodged any cancellations.
“If you don’t have a pilot, you don’t have a pilot… what are you going to do? It’s unfortunate for those flying,” said Dial.
Unlike many other businesses, airports across the country still have a federal mask mandate. It’s something Dial says she could do without.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I think there’s been enough vaccine that we need to do away with the masks,” Dial stated.
Sterling says it’s been a rough year, with only 200 passengers flying out a day in their darkest moments. But now that number is closer to 7,000. It’s a light at the end of the tunnel for an industry heavily affected by the pandemic, but not yet back to “normal.”