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Local airports seeing an increase in holiday travel as COVID guidelines loosen

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(WEEK) -- It is a big weekend for travel in central Illinois and local airports are watching an uptick in flight bookings.

AAA predicts nearly two million Illinoisans in total are traveling for Memorial Day - something most couldn't do just a year ago.

"Our son bought some mountain property, so we are going to go tour his property," local traveler Jenny Beal said. "And our daughter-in-law is expecting a baby in September."

"Mostly hiking, probably shopping," traveler Allison Buster said. "We don't really have anything planned - just taking it day by day."

COVID-19 restrictions are loosening around the country and airlines are adding more flights as demand picks up.

Gene Olson, director of General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport, believes they'll see more than triple the amount of passengers this month compared to last May.

"We only had 11,000 passengers here in May and we are normally over 50,000," Olson said.

There is another factor adding to this year's travel fever - two new flights out of Peoria to Sarasota, Florida and Denver.

"Before, we would have to go to Bloomington and catch a direct flight from there. So this is much more convenient," Beal said.

While travel is starting to get back to normal, a few pandemic rules are still in place at airports.

"We still require masks regardless," said Fran Strebing, deputy director of marketing at Central Illinois Regional Airport. "There won't be anyone checking at the door or checking anywhere but it is still required for everyone, including the employees."

For those flying, airports recommend travelers give themselves plenty of time to get to the airport - because more travelers often means longer lines.

Harry Croton

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