Flight demand on the rise as more get COVID-19 vaccinations

The quickly expanding availability of COVID-19 vaccines is giving more passengers the confidence to return to the skies as more flights are departing and arriving at the Long Beach Airport.

Though airport officials are still unsure how the pandemic will continue to affect passenger patterns and behaviors, Airport Director Cynthia Guidry stated in a memo this week that “the recovery of flight and passenger traffic is accelerating.”

“Vaccine distribution is advancing faster than anticipated and is providing added confidence to passengers and attracting travelers who may have chosen not to travel until fully vaccinated,” Guidry said in the memo. “As a result, it appears likely that recovery of air traffic will continue.”

Southwest Airlines announced additional destinations including flights to Hawaii last month and an increase in flights to already established destinations. Hawaiian Airlines added a new flight slot to Maui and American Airlines added Dallas to its schedule.

“These additions reflect a spring break/summer ramp-up anticipated by industry analysts and aligns with the airport’s forecast for increased” plane boardings, the memo read.

The uptick in flights stands in contrast to travel in December last year. In a year-end memo, airport officials stated passenger activity dropped 95% as a result of the pandemic. Two-thirds of the airport’s revenue is dependent on passenger fees.

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control issued new guidance this month stating that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely travel domestically.

The vaccine eligibility has also expanded in California heading into the warmer spring and summer months. On Thursday, Mayor Robert Garcia announced Long Beach would open vaccinations to residents and workers 16 and older. The news attracted hundreds of people outside the Terrace Theater hoping for vaccinations.

The state is expected to open up vaccines to those 16 years and older on April 15.

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