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Travelers check into their flights at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Monday, May 30, 2022 in Houston. According to AAA more than 39 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the 2022 Memorial Day holiday weekend and airlines were expecting numbers of travelers that rivaled pre-pandemic levels.
Travelers arrive and depart Terminal A at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Monday, May 30, 2022 in Houston. According to AAA more than 39 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the 2022 Memorial Day holiday weekend and airlines were expecting numbers of travelers that rivaled pre-pandemic levels.
A list of arrivals at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Monday, May 30, 2022 in Houston. According to AAA more than 39 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the 2022 Memorial Day holiday weekend and airlines were expecting numbers of travelers that rivaled pre-pandemic levels.
Travelers arrive and depart Terminal A at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Monday, May 30, 2022 in Houston. According to AAA more than 39 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the 2022 Memorial Day holiday weekend and airlines were expecting numbers of travelers that rivaled pre-pandemic levels.
A Southwest Airlines flight takes off from Terminal A at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Monday, May 30, 2022 in Houston. According to AAA more than 39 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the 2022 Memorial Day holiday weekend and airlines were expecting numbers of travelers that rivaled pre-pandemic levels.
More than one million people were expected to fly through Houston during the Memorial Day weekend travel period, just 6 percent shy of pre-pandemic levels, as travelers nationwide ditched their masks and booked flights for overdue vacations.
Hobby Airport was expecting 250,900 passengers for the six-day period that began Thursday and continues through Tuesday. Bush Intercontinental Airport was expecting 752,900 travelers arriving, departing or connecting through the Bayou City.
The combined travel at Hobby and Bush Intercontinental is up 13 percent from last year.
RELATED: Houston’s Bush, Hobby Airports end mask requirements after federal judge’s ruling
“It’s really optimistic for us,” said Željka Momirović, director for air service development for the Houston Airports. “We are seeing a strong demand and pent-up demand that’s coming for the summertime.”
Travelers head to security at Terminal A in George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Monday, May 30, 2022 in Houston. According to AAA more than 39 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the 2022 Memorial Day holiday weekend and airlines were expecting numbers of travelers that rivaled pre-pandemic levels.
Nationwide, travelers have packed their bags despite higher gasoline prices and increased airfare. AAA forecast that 39.2 million people would travel 50 miles or more from home for the Memorial Day weekend. That’s up 8.3 percent from 2021 and down 8.2 percent from 2019.
“Memorial Day is always a good predictor of what’s to come for summer travel,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president for AAA Travel, said in a news release. “Based on our projections, summer travel isn’t just heating up, it will be on fire. People are overdue for a vacation and they are looking to catch up on some much-needed R&R in the coming months.”
Airlines are slowly increasing flight frequencies to pre-pandemic levels at Hobby and Bush Intercontinental airports. Domestic leisure travel as well as long-haul flights to Europe and Latin America are picking up the pace of their schedules.
Travelers check their luggage at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Monday, May 30, 2022 in Houston. According to AAA more than 39 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the 2022 Memorial Day holiday weekend and airlines were expecting numbers of travelers that rivaled pre-pandemic levels.
Last week, Frontier Airlines started new nonstop flights from Hobby to Cancun, Mexico, Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas. It also initiated a new flight from Bush Intercontinental to Cancun.
With these additions, Frontier now flies to three destinations from Hobby and six destinations from Bush Intercontinental.
Air New Zealand is resuming service in July. It had halted flights from Bush Intercontinental to Auckland, New Zealand in March 2020.
Also in July, Turkish Airlines will surpass pre-pandemic levels with flights between Bush Intercontinental and Istanbul, Turkey. It had seven weekly flights, one per day, before COVID-19, and will increase to 10 weekly flights — with three days of the week offering two daily flights.
Travelers arrive and depart Terminal A at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Monday, May 30, 2022 in Houston. According to AAA more than 39 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the 2022 Memorial Day holiday weekend and airlines were expecting numbers of travelers that rivaled pre-pandemic levels.
Ultimately, 2019 is the benchmark for recovery, and Momirović noted that this year’s Memorial Day holiday travel did not reach the numbers from three years ago. But what she’s seeing makes her optimistic for the months ahead.
“It’s going to be a busy summer,” she said. “That’s for sure. We’re seeing a very nice recovery.”
andrea.leinfelder@chron.com
twitter.com/a_leinfelder
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Andrea Leinfelder is the space reporter for the Houston Chronicle. 
Andrea writes about NASA and the commercial space sector, where her coverage spans human spaceflight, robotic exploration and operations in low-Earth orbit. For six months of the year, she keeps an eye on the Atlantic hurricane season. Andrea graduated from the University of Florida in 2012 and has lived in Houston since 2014. She enjoys traveling, eating her way across Houston and walking her dog Lizzy.

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