ORLANDO, Fla. – Traffic at Florida’s busiest airport this holiday weekend is forecast to exceed pre-pandemic crowds.
Officials at Orlando International Airport said Wednesday that this Labor Day weekend they are expecting more than 303,000 departures, a 7% increase above Labor Day weekend in 2019.
If it pans out, that forecast will be more than double what the Orlando airport experienced during the Labor Day weekend travel period last year.
The official holiday travel period starts Thursday and ends next Tuesday.
The busiest travel day of the holiday weekend is expected to be on Saturday when Orlando International Airport is forecast to have more than 53,000 departures.
Before the pandemic started in the U.S. in March 2020, the theme park mecca was the most visited place in the U.S., with 76 million visitors in 2019. That figure fell to 35.3 million visitors last year.
“This holiday it appears many travelers are soaking in the last bit of summer by taking a trip to Orlando," the airport said in a statement.
News 6 spoke with Glynesa Redfield and her two kids at the Orlando International Airport Thursday. They said they’re happy to spend their Labor Day weekend in Orlando.
“We just really excited to get to come,” Redfield said. “We’re going to Disney. We haven’t been on vacation in two years. We couldn’t do anything last year of course because of COVID.”
We also spoke with Maggie Karnes and her two sons visiting from Chicago.
“Yes, very excited, Although we can turn down the heat a little bit, it’s a little hot,” Karnes said.
Meantime, over at Icon Park on International Drive, leaders said they welcome the crowds.
“We’re very happy, we look forward to the weekend,” Icon Park President & CEO Chris Jaskiewicz said. “We’re cleaning the capsules and we’re making sure everyone has their own private capsules,” said Jaskiewicz.
He said they’re putting safety first, including encouraging many of their outdoor activities. He said since the pandemic, Icon Park has increased its outdoor shopping kiosks from 15 vendors to 40.
“We’re encouraging everyone to stay five or six feet from each other. All of our employees that are guests facings wear masks,” Jaskiewicz said.
He said they’re also offering incentives this weekend.
“For children who ride the wheel, they are going to be able to participate in this mining experience for free.”
At nearby Andretti Indoor Karting and Games on Universal Boulevard, General Manager Johnathan Levine said safety is key.
“Our team members come through a rigorous temperature check, and they’re required to wear masks,” Levine said.
He said there are plenty of sanitizing stations throughout the property and their COVID prevention team of workers use foggers to regularly disinfect games, rides, and surfaces throughout the building to ensure both a fun, yet safe experience.
“We’re promoting social distancing and trying to do everything we can to navigate the COVID landscape,” said Levine. “We strongly recommended that guests come on with their mask on and if they need one, we will give it to them.”
They told News 6 they expect to see about 50% more people this Labor Day holiday weekend, compared to last year.