Portland air travel is finally picking up as the Thanksgiving rush approaches | Tech US News

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Travel through Portland International Airport has been particularly slow to recover from the pandemic, consistently delaying the national recovery.

In recent months, however, the pace of travel through PDX has been increasing, and that means Thanksgiving trips through the airport could be busier than they have been in years.

“We are intensely focused on encouraging travelers to arrive at the airport at least two hours early, especially if they are traveling between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m.,” said Kama Simonds, a spokeswoman for the Port of Portland, which manages the airport.

Passenger volumes at PDX in September were more than 80% of their pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest data from the port. Nationally, flights are about 90% of their pre-pandemic levels.

Many factors are contributing to Portland’s comparatively slow recovery, including its reliance on business travel, the fact that it is not a major hub for any airlines, the drop in international flights, and the reputational damage that accompanied the 2020 riots and the ongoing increase in city violence.

Airlines that once had five flights a day between Bay Area cities could now have three, Simonds said. Airlines that could send three small planes to Los Angeles each day could send just one larger plane, making more efficient use of their planes and adapting to the national pilot shortage.

Still, the gap between PDX’s recovery and domestic air travel growth has closed considerably, with Portland’s total passenger numbers up more than 30% through the first nine months of 2022.

Despite rising inflation, unemployment remains low and consumer spending remains high. People are apparently eager to return to their pre-pandemic lifestyles, enjoy the holidays and catch up with family and friends.

Thanksgiving is not usually the airport’s busiest time; the summer months are even more popular. But the holidays compress much of this month’s travel into a 10-day period, meaning PDX will be especially busy during the next stretch.

The airport anticipates having adequate parking, Simonds said, but individual lots can fill up around the holidays. Therefore, it is advised to check the PDX website in advance to find out which lots have space.

Ongoing terminal construction leaves less space in the ticketing area and means routes to individual gates may be unfamiliar, Simonds said. The airport will have guides on hand to provide directions, but he said the morning hours in particular, when a group of early flights leave to reach the East Coast later in the day, could get a little crazy.

“We don’t want it to be stressful. It gives you a lot of time,” Simonds said. “There will be people there to help.”

This is Oregon Insight, The Oregonian’s weekly look at the numbers behind the state’s economy. Check out previous installments here.

— Mike Rogoway | [email protected] | 503-294-7699 | Twitter: @rogoway |

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