Wilmington International Airport departures and arrivals were down in September by a little over 50% compared to the same month last year, but local officials are optimistic about ILM's recovery.
The decrease, attributed to the global pandemic, hovers around 50% depending on the day, said Airport Director Julie Wilsey on Thursday, with heavier traffic Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
September saw a little over 40,000 inbound and outbound travelers come through ILM, a fall of about 54% from September 2019 figures.
this year, the same numbers showed a 60% decrease from August 2019.
But those differences aren't nearly as extreme as those at the start of the pandemic, with April having the lowest number of travelers this year at the airport.
April was the second month of government restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.
"Looking nationally across the country, ILM tends to be right at the very top of the curve, so we are hanging at the very top of where the nation is today in terms of recovery," Wilsey said Thursday. "We're pretty pleased with that, and we continue to see steady progress. It's going in the right direction."
The airlines are saying they're seeing good numbers for Thanksgiving bookings, a traditional time for an increase in travelers.
"A lot of people have not visited their family in a while because of the situation. We think it will be a busy Thanksgiving holiday. We're planning for it," Wilsey said. "In fact, as of Oct. 1, we reopened all of our parking lots with our regular rates and availability."
She added, "We strongly encourage people to go ahead and book their tickets now because eventually the seats will fill out and the prices will go up."
Wilsey said the airport uses extensive health and safety measures.
"We're committed to having a clean and sanitized building," she said.
In other positive development, ILM's three carriers, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, have been adding back flight options.
Airport officials are seeking to restore all flights and are also aiming to recruit South Florida destinations.