Eastern Iowa Airport expects busiest holiday season since 2019

The number of travelers in 2022 indicates numbers similar to the pre-pandemic world.


Matt Sindt

Travelers wait by the gates at the Eastern Iowa Airport (CID) Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022.

Grace Katzer, News Reporter

The Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids is expected to see the second-busiest year of air travel in its history as this year’s holiday travel season begins.

The busiest year for air travel recorded was in 2019, with 1.3 million people departing from the Eastern Iowa Airport. Officials from the airport said the numbers recorded over the Thanksgiving holiday project the busiest year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Eastern Iowa Airport’s monthly statistics report, total passengers dropped 54 percent from 2019 to 2020, from 1,342,736 to 615,935 passengers, respectively. As of October, the airport recorded 1,003,746 passengers.

Eastern Iowa Airport director Marty Lenss said in a statement released by the airport that the increased number of passengers over the Thanksgiving holiday was paired with an increased number of seats on the market, with nearly every seat on every flight filled.

“When comparing available seats in the market for the same Thanksgiving travel period in 2019 (Monday – Thursday), compared to this year, we have 8 percent more seats this year,” Lenss said in the press release.

Pam Hinman, Eastern Iowa Airport director of marketing and communications, said in an interview with The Daily Iowan the airport also increased the size of aircrafts to accommodate the high demand.

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“There are definitely more larger aircrafts here than there were a year ago,” she said. “Typically, airports our size have a lot of 50-

to 70-seat regional jets, but now we have about 109 seats per flight in 2022.”

The number of seats available at the airport has increased by 37 percent since 2019, according to the statement.

Although the demand for travel is high, Hinman said obstacles such as price increases and the national pilot shortage affected many travelers during the holiday season, including through flight cancellations and delayed departures.

“The pilot shortage has led to pilots rearranging their schedules with the crew that they do have,” she said. “We have less of the smaller aircrafts in large because they’ve been replaced with the larger aircrafts in light of the shortage.”

Hinman added that the airport had 15 nonstop destinations and recently added a new one since the pandemic.

Delta removed its nonstop service to Detroit, Michigan, whereas Allegiant added nonstop service to Sarasota Bradenton International Airport in Sarasota, Florida, and Frontier Airlines added nonstop service to Orlando International Airport, Hinman said.

Nationally, The New York Times reported record levels of inflation in 2022 has caused price hikes in air travel resulting in a 46 percent increase in domestic airfare during the week of Thanksgiving.

University of Iowa student Julian Petkov flew home to the United Kingdom over the fall break. Petkov said he and his family travel frequently and has noticed several differences this holiday season compared to previous years.

“A lot has changed since the pandemic,” he said. “During the pandemic, it was always crazy having to get negative and going through all of the international travel expectations. It’s definitely been easier this year in terms of COVID, but now the airports are much busier.”

Petkov said his family frequently experiences longer wait times and increased prices.

“Traveling is sort of a necessity for us, so I guess we just have to pay the price,” he said. “But it is definitely a lot more expensive than it used to be.”