Dane Co. Regional Airport prepares for Labor Day weekend travel spike

The airport has seen a steady increase in air travel since the spring of 2021.
Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 10:49 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Heading into Labor Day weekend, the Dane County Regional Airport is expecting to see more people hopping on planes to get away for the long weekend. Marketing director Michael Riechers said air travel has been steadily increasing all year, but he is expecting a jump of about 1,000 travelers per day over the weekend.

“It’s been slow and steady,” Riechers said, adding, “They’re ready to book, they’re ready to get out there and start traveling.”

Riechers said the airport saw major increases in summer travel over the previous year, and that trend is continuing.

“We’ve seen about 160,000 passengers depart out of Madison. Compare that to 2020 which was about 20,000 passengers,” he said of summer travel.

The airport now sees about 2,100 passengers a day, and Riechers is expecting that number to jump over the holiday.

“We’re looking at about 3,000, 3,500 passengers,” he predicted.

Heading into Labor Day weekend, the Dane County Regional Airport tells me they're expecting a jump of about 1,000...

Posted by Sanika Bhargaw NBC15 on Friday, September 3, 2021

Travelers flying into Madison Friday said other airport are already seeing traffic ramp up.

“Driving into the airport, there [were] people parked in spots that weren’t parking spots, it was as packed as it normally was,” said Randy Gowat, who flew in from Pittsburgh.

Gowat and his friend Matt Glavin, who flew in from Philadelphia, said both airports in Pennsylvania and Madison were busier than they expected.

“I’ve been here two other times, and it seems kind of, you know pre-COVID, and it seems pretty similar to those times,” Glavin said.

For Olivia Dyer, Labor Day weekend is her first time in the city, but she said she was still surprised by the crowd.

“I really don’t know what it’s usually like but today it felt kind of busy in the restaurant area,” she explained.

Dyer flew out of Denver, which she said is normally a busy airport.

“I’ve seen it busier though, so I don’t think that things were too crazy,” she remembered.

Dyer, Glavin and Gowat all said they have not flown a lot during the pandemic—for Gowat, this was his first time on a plane in nearly two years—but all three said they mostly felt safe, even at busier airports.

“I felt generally safe post-vaccine,” Dyer explained.

Glavin echoed being vaccinated as a comfort and added, “I have the N-95 which I wear on the plane.”

Riechers said the airport is also continuing their COVID-19 mitigation protocols to keep passengers safe.

“We put out complementary masks, and there’s hand sanitizer throughout the terminal,” he described.

Despite the expected increase over the weekend, Riechers said staff is prepared to handle it. He said they have not seen major cancellations or delays this year, other than some weather-related issues, even as travel has ramped up.

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