After seeing steep drops in traffic in March and April, Tulsa International Airport officials are starting to see a rebound.
According to Transportation Security Administration figures, passenger numbers at Tulsa International were down 53% in March and almost 96% in April from the same months the year before.
Tulsa Airports CEO Alexis Higgins said during a Tulsa Regional Chamber business event more people came through the security checkpoint on Friday than they’d seen since mid-March.
"We were jumping for joy because there were 1,500 people in the terminal that day. And so, I think that’s a sign that leisure travelers, vacation travelers in particular, are starting to say, 'Hey, I need to go out and see family,’ or, ‘I want to go on that vacation that I’ve been thinking about,'" Higgins said.
The worst numbers for Tulsa International during the pandemic were 1,300 passengers the week of April 12, down from 37,000 for the same week a year earlier.
Higgins thinks it will take a nationwide reopening before travel gets back to near normal levels.
"As Vegas opens, once Disney World opens and some of these key destination markets begin opening and people feel safe traveling to those markets, then we’ll start seeing some additional nonessential travel. As far as business travel goes, though … I think that is still the big elephant in the room," Higgins said.
Many companies are limiting or have canceled business travel through the end of 2020.
Tulsa’s four largest carriers — United, American, Southwest and Delta — cut daily flights from 51 to 14 this month. Tulsa has lost access to eight markets as a result.