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Airports prepare for Thanksgiving

Airports prepare for Thanksgiving

November 21st, 2017 by Helen Wilbers in Local News

Fulton's own Elton Hensley Memorial Airport may see a slight uptick in traffic over Thanksgiving, manager Daniel Harris said, noting a few folks like to fly their small aircraft into town to visit family.

Photo by Helen Wilbers /News Tribune.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — From the Atlantic to the Pacific, the traffic is horrific — which is why some fly instead.

Area airports like Columbia Regional Airport are preparing for the Thanksgiving rush.

"We have a lot of travelers out here at Thanksgiving weekend," said Mike Parks, airport general manager. "In general, our traffic has been really busy for the last year."

The airport provides daily non-stop flights to Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago O'Hare with American Airlines, and Denver International Airport through United Airlines.

To date, Parks said, the airport has hosted more than 70,000 travelers in 2017 and is on-track for a 40-year record high.

"And we still have two more months to count," he added.

He didn't have an estimate for Thanksgiving traffic, but said flights are in high demand.

"Currently, American Airlines has two extra flights the Sunday after Thanksgiving," he said.

Low ticket prices may contribute to high travel volume. According to AAA's Thanksgiving travel predictions, consumers will be paying less for airfare than they have since 2013.

Parks said American Airlines will add an extra flight to Dallas beginning in February to help keep up with demand.

On Monday, just in time for the holidays, the airport opened a new commercial runway. Parks said the airport extended and resurfaced an extant crosswind runway so it's fit for commercial traffic.

"It gives one more option for commercial air traffic," he said.

Parks said he didn't know if the Transportation Security Administration would be bringing in additional security personnel to help ease passengers' passage through security. Regardless, he said, expect holiday-length lines.

"All passengers should remember to arrive early and make sure they go through security right when they arrive," he advised.

He said for Columbia city employees at the airport, the holidays are business as usual.

"We'll just continue to provide excellent customer service and support the airlines," Parks said.

In Fulton, the Elton Hensley Regional Airport's manager Daniel Harris isn't expecting too much of a traffic bump.

"It's not anything crazy, but I bet you there'll be a few people flying in to visit family," Harris said.

The airport is typically unmanned and doesn't offer commercial flights. Instead, it's a refueling and plane storage point for individuals stopping in or passing through the area.

"The fuel is self-serve and pilots have a code to enter the building," Harris added.

He said most people using the airport come from adjacent states like Kansas and Illinois.

While the holiday weekend might be slightly busier than usual, Harris doesn't think it'll surpass the record air traffic the airport got in August.

"The biggest thing we had this year was the solar eclipse (on Aug. 21), and that's because other airports closed up," he said. "We had about 20 planes."