What to expect at LVIA for the holiday travel season following a busy summer

A very busy summer travel season was even better than expected for Lehigh Valley International Airport (LVIA), and the usual pause in the fall is allowing staff to prepare for upcoming holiday travel.

There are variables, new and old, to consider. COVID-19 is still a pandemic, pilot and airline staff shortages still persist, and they are coupled with the question of are we or are we not in a recession?

“From my perspective, we’re still going to see that holiday travel this year,” said Tom Stoudt, executive director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, which owns and operates LVIA. “I don’t see that people have given that up … What next year brings could be a whole other story.”

International travel specifically could see more of a boost. Brian Kelly, founder of The Points Guy, told Huffington Post he thinks there will be more travelers heading to international destinations for the holidays, especially since some borders have recently re-opened.

The new bivalent vaccine helps with COVID concerns, but increasing travel costs and pilot and staff shortages are still worrisome factors travelers are considering.

A recent Bankrate survey found that 43% of U.S. adults planned to travel this holiday season, but 79% are changing their plans because of inflation and high costs.

After air travel started to rebound in 2021 at LVIA and then surged this past summer, talk has once again turned toward new destinations at the region’s airport.

Stoudt said he frequently gets asked about it, but it’s up to the airlines, which are looking at their route networks almost on a month-by-month basis and still need to adjust to pandemic changes.

The direct service to Dulles International Airport in Virginia is a prime example. There was so much passenger traffic headed south that United added the route in December 2020, Stoudt said.

Destinations are what residents are interested in, but LVIA staff is also looking at cargo, which continues to grow and do well at the airport.

“We provide excellent service here, but we also need the right facilities to handle the volume,” Stoudt said. “We need to make sure we have the facilities to meet the demand that’s here. That’s our charge, that’s what I’m here to do.”

The holidays are a busy time for cargo carriers like Amazon and FedEx; FedEx saw a 20% increase in its cargo this past August compared to a year ago, Stoudt said.

The airport’s cargo apron has been extended to the max, and the focus for next year will be making sure there are facilities to meet demand.

“One of the things we don’t have today is an air cargo building,” Stoudt said.

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Sarah Cassi may be reached at scassi@lehighvalleylive.com.

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