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Billings airport and Montana roads have increased Christmas travelers

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Posted at 8:16 PM, Dec 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-23 12:29:22-05

BILLINGS - Airports across the country embraced packs of passengers Friday, on what is expected to be the busiest travel day of the year.

Triple-A projects 7.5 million people will travel by air, more than the previous highs for Christmas and New Year's before COVID in 2019.

And many more hit the road, especially in Montana.

Nationwide and at Billings Logan International Airport, they're expecting increased travel, more departures and arrivals.

It shouldn't have a huge effect in Billings, but maybe more so in the big cities.

About 2.5 million passengers will fly each day during the winter holiday travel season, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Jim Myers has been working in Billings and he's heading home to Virginia Beach, Virginia.

"Everything's showing on time," Myers said. "And fingers crossed, I'm going to make it there on time."

Lee Tomlinson has a five-hour layover in Billings after flying in from Sidney.

He will be in airports and airplanes for 12 hours before making it home to Los Angeles.

"It's all part of the experience when it comes to traveling," Tomlinson said. "Whether it's crowded or delays or anything like that, I don't mind. I've got my phone. I've got my movies."

Air travel is expected to increase about six percent across the country and Billings will see about 2,500 passengers a day for four days leading up to Christmas, which will be about a 10 percent increase.

"During the COVID period, people did not travel and so there was pent-up demand," said Jeff Roach, city of Billings director of aviation & transit.

Roach said the flights are spaced out enough, that it keeps the airport from getting too crowded.

He also says that airlines have added flights and some may be using bigger planes.

He suggests getting to the airport early and double-checking to make sure you're not carrying something that is not allowed on the plane or in bags.

"It not only delays them as they're going through that process," Roach said. "But it also backs up the lines and delays other passengers when something that's not allowed is found in the check-in process or during passenger screening."

Triple-A's 115.2 million travel prediction is a 2.2 percent increase and among the busiest in more than 20 years.

And it's a good day to travel from Red Lodge to Gillette, Wyoming.

"Bad weather, we probably stayed home," said David Traverso, who is traveling with his wife to Gillette. "But roads aren't too bad and this weekend they're going be good."

For many, it's about being with family at Christmas time.

"That's what Christmas is all about, being around your family," Myers said.

"Probably show up on the doorstep on Christmas and surprise," Tomlinson said about his plans to surprise his parents, who do not know he will be home. "Merry Christmas. I'm Santa Claus this year."

"Merry Christmas to everybody," Traverso said.