Despite the current COVID surge worldwide, and the worrisome Omicron variant, this week before Christmas is one of the busiest travel times of the year, and Moline’s airport is happy to be part of that action.
“By all indications, the industry isn’t seeing major impacts but that could very well change if states that have been open start shutting down,” Ashleigh Davis, spokeswoman for the Quad Cities International Airport, said Tuesday. “Leisure is carrying the industry and it seems as long as popular vacation destinations are open, travel is still being booked.”
At U.S. airports this past Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 6.25 million people passed through TSA checkpoints, more than double the 3.09 million who traveled Dec. 18-20, 2020, before COVID vaccines were widely available.
As of this week, 65 percent of all Americans age 5 and up have been fully vaccinated — or 204 million people total, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, about 30 percent have received a booster shot, which is recommend to help deal with the Omicron variant.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, predicted Sunday that face masks will forever be required on airplanes.
During an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” host Jonathan Karl asked Fauci if “we [are] going to get to the point where we won’t have to wear masks on airplanes.”
In response, Fauci predicted that airline passengers will forever be required to wear face masks. In fact, Fauci made his prediction for any “closed space.”
“I think when you’re dealing with a closed space, even though the filtration is good, that you want to go that extra step,” Fauci said.
U.S. airports — including Quad Cities — also saw a big boost in November 2021 passenger numbers, compared to 2020. In the three days leading up to Thanksgiving, TSA checkpoint numbers were 6.6 million nationwide, compared to 2.54 million in the same period in 2020.
For the Moline airport, November was a solid month – improved to a 14% decline over 2019, and Thanksgiving weekend was down only 6% over November 2019, Davis of QCIA said. “Allegiant saw a big jump in the market share with some added flights around the holiday,” she said.
Coming off a record October 2021 — the highest passenger numbers (51,623) since the pandemic started — November saw 48,208 passengers at the QC airport, compared to 22,910 in November 2020 and 56,008 in 2019.
Calendar year to date, the Moline airport has had 446,754 total passengers, a 32-percent drop compared to the same period in 2019. In November, Allegiant improved its local market share — 26 percent of all Moline air traffic, compared to 18 percent in 2019. The airport is also served by American, United and Delta Airlines.