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Number of travelers at Indianapolis airport taking off again

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Air travel is on the rise, and more people are packing their bags and taking off from Indianapolis.

New numbers from the airport show a 20% increase in travelers in March compared to March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began impacting flights.

In 2020, an estimated 4.1 million people traveled through IND, 2 million of those were in Quarter 1 with recording breaking numbers in January and February 2020. From January through March this year, already more than 1 million travelers have boarded flights. Experts say that is a good sign for what is to come this travel season.

The airport buzzed Friday with travelers preparing to take off on long-awaited flights.

Pam Thompson was ready for a girls trip that had been postponed for nearly nine months. “Actually we were to leave last … a year ago, Sept. 1, and because of COVID, our friend in Florida called and said, ‘Don’t come.’”

Wendy Labuzan was going to see her family in Colorado for the first time in nearly a year. “At some point, we all, you know, need to reconnect with family and kind of get back to somewhat a normal life.”

Both women were vaccinated, but had different feelings as they prepared to board their first flights in a year.

Thompson said, “I have had my shots and I feel comfortable. I think Indiana is doing very well.”

Labuzan said, “It is a little nerve-racking … a little bit. You know, I haven’t been on an airplane in quite a while since before the pandemic.”

The airport credits the reopening of Indiana for the increased number of flyers. “Indy hosting the full March Madness (men’s basketball) tournament certainly helped and having fan capacity there as well as spring break travel through Indy,” said Megan Carrico, director of public affairs at Indianapolis International Airport.

With the Indy 500 allowing 135,000 fans this year — 40% of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s capacity — and 15 new flights being added to the IND airport roster, travel is expected to continue trending up.

“Historically, Memorial (Day) weekend is one of our top travel days, so that is people coming in for the race or coming in to visit friends and family. I think certainly it remains to be seen what those numbers are, but, overall, we are optimistic,” Carrico said.

Leisure travel across the aviation industry has been steadily increasing as more people become vaccinated and more destinations open up; however, business travel still seems to be lagging, industry experts say.

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