22:02 PM

One year after its Spring Break traffic plunge, TPA prepares for a rise in March and April numbers

With COVID-19 uncertainty and restrictions still solidly affixed around the globe, Tampa International Airport officials are expecting a modest increase – but an increase, nonetheless – in passengers traveling this upcoming Spring Break season.

The official six-week busy period begins this week and TPA has already seen a slow rise in traffic since January, with more than 46,000 passengers traveling this past Sunday, up from about 36,000 passengers that traveled through TPA exactly two weeks prior. On average, the Airport expects to see between 40,000 to 60,000 passengers daily during the Spring Break period, with some peak days seeing as many as 65,000 passengers.

That’s still well below the 80,000 to 90,000 daily Spring Break passengers TPA saw pre-pandemic, but a dramatic change from last spring when TPA saw its traffic plummet in the middle of the season, dwindling around 2,000 to 3,000 daily passengers at one point in early April. Domestic travel is expected to pick up as COVID-19 case numbers decline and vaccinations become more widespread.

“"Our survey data shows (customer) sentiment is at the highest level it’s been since we began tracking the data last spring,'' Matt Klein, chief commercial officer for Spirit Airlines, told investors in mid-February according to USA Today.

Still, TPA and other airports around the country are expecting business recovery to be slow and steady in 2021, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend people avoid travel to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those who do travel through TPA are required to wear masks, asked to observe distancing and use its COVID-19 testing site in the Main Terminal.

Passenger projections are somewhat less predictable this year than in years past. The Airport often relies on airline booking data to project daily numbers, but this year many passengers are booking much closer to travel dates because of the pandemic uncertainty. Airlines and hotels are allowing easy or flexible cancellations to put travelers at ease, but it also makes it harder predict future booking numbers.

Still, Spring Break tends to bring droves of visitors to the Tampa Bay region, and this season will be no different, albeit on a smaller scale than what TPA experienced before the pandemic.

For those visiting or flying through TPA in the coming months, visit the Airport’s Spring Break Hub for info and tips.