COLONIE — Air travel out of Albany International Airport saw a significant increase over the weekend compared to previous weeks, likely reflecting travel of families during the winter school break.
While the increase was noticeable, passenger traffic levels remain far below previous years.
From Thursday through Sunday, the Albany airport counted just over 7,400 passengers departing the region, up from 4,400 departing passengers during the previous Thursday-Sunday weekend, or a 68 percent increase from one weekend to the next, according to passenger throughput data provided by the airport.
“We saw a lot of children and families going out,” said Doug Myers, director of public affairs for Albany International Airport.
By comparison, the same four-day period in 2020 — about a month before traffic slowed dramatically during the pandemic- – saw more than 20,000 passengers departing Albany airport.
Myers, who noted the airport has not sought to encourage travel during the pandemic, said there was a clear uptick in passenger traffic in recent days and noted the school break. He said passengers throughout the pandemic have adhered to the airports distancing and mask-wearing requirements.
“The people are following the guidelines,” he said Monday. “We haven’t had any difficulty with folks following social distancing or wearing masks at the terminal.”
The relative surge in passenger traffic came as school districts across the Capital Region started a weeklong winter break. Many district superintendents issued notes of caution to families, urging families with travel plans to take all necessary precautions outlined by local, state and federal officials. Niskayuna district officials, for example, noted the CDC has advised “the safest way to prevent the spread of the virus is to stay home” and avoid larger gatherings.
Superintendents did not explicitly advise families to not travel but did highlight the positive downward trend in cases over the past month and reiterated the importance in maintaining health precautions. Infection rates in most parts of the region have declined gradually for the past month, reaching some of the lowest levels since before the winter holidays.
“The low rates noted above may well be influenced by the vacation time as people travel, congregate in larger crowds, etc.,” Ballston Spa Superintendent Ken Slentz wrote in a message to district families last week. “Being able to stay open for in-person learning is our very highest priority right now and I am truly hoping that we do not see increases like we did after the December holiday recess that caused us to have to move to fully remote learning.”
District leaders also pointed to the state’s travel guidance, which requires testing and quarantining for people who visit a non-contiguous state. A state travel advisory currently requires anyone traveling to a non-neighboring state for more than 24 hours to obtain a test before returning to New York and enter a 10-day quarantine upon return to New York. On the fourth day of quarantine, the traveler can get another test, ending the quarantine early with a second negative test. (In short, families that travel beyond neighboring states this week would likely need to quarantine into next school week, under the state travel protocols.)
“I would like to remind everyone to please consider travel very carefully and how it can impact your student’s ability to attend school,” Saratoga Springs Superintendent Michael Patton said in a message he sent to district families last week.