Gulfport airport officials: Holiday travel numbers holding steady

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Airports are just recovering from the weekend blizzard that grounded planes, and stranded passengers. On Wednesday night, another storm is racing across the country. It was one that could make the rush to get to grandma's house by Christmas quite messy.

Anyone who's ever booked a flight close to the holiday knows the trips often include long lines, delays, and a lot of frustration.

Phyllis Daigle tried to unwind while waiting to collect her luggage at the Gulfport Biloxi International Airport. She said her trip was extended by an overnight stay in Memphis and an unexpected detour through Atlanta.

"Mechanical failure," said Daigle. "They were able to give us a room to stay in so we could at least get a shower and a little bit of rest."

Other passengers in town for the holidays, spoke of airports with long security lines and large crowds. However, most people had few complaints.

Maurice Johnson flew out of Baltimore.

"This year wasn't that bad," Johnson said. "I thought it would be a little worse than it was, but it actually wasn't. Just a small delay in Atlanta."

Max Chervitz hopped a flight from Tampa.

"It was good," Chervitz said. "I love coming here every year, so it was well worth it."

"It's been great. I came from Kansas City," Meredith Thompson said. "It was raining up there real bad. Got down here, the sun is shining. Can't believe it. "

Some travelers leaving Kansas City said they'd decided to get the jump on winter weather.

"I left Omaha, Nebraska at 10 o'clock last night and drove in the ice to Kansas City," Mark Thornhill said. "I made it. Here I am. I wouldn't have wanted to start today because it's pretty bad out there."

Airport officials said this year's holiday travel season has been good with the numbers holding steady.

Director of Air Service and Business Development Jeremiah Gerald said, "Our load factors are pretty high, usually in the 80 percent range. Over the weekend, pretty much every single seat was filled. So yeah, it's definitely comparable to years past."

Families say the joy they feel being reunited with their loved ones at Christmas time is worth a few small inconveniences.

"I really feel sorry for the people who work in the airports, because of the things they kept saying were 'Holidays are bad because it's so hectic. People are not always as nice,'" Daigle said. "You know, it's really a time we should be thankful for a lot of things."

Airport officials say the number of flights on Christmas Day will be limited because most people have already arrived at their destinations by then. Business is expected to pick back up on Sunday as people head home.

Officials suggest holiday travelers arrive at least an hour and a half before their flight, pack according to security standards and try to pack as light as possible.

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