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San Diego expecting big airport crowds, even with omicron lurking

San Diego International Airport is getting busier by the day as we get closer to the holidays. But KPBS reporter John Carroll says even as the omicron variant spreads, people are taking to the skies in big numbers.

A million people are expected to travel through San Diego International Airport between Dec. 17 and Jan. 3.

San Diego International Airport is the third busiest airport in California, so it's rarely a quiet place.

But with 2021 being a rebound year from the darkest days of the pandemic, airport officials are expecting the stretch from Dec. 17 through Jan. 3 to be the busiest since 2019.

"This year, we’re anticipating seeing about a million people coming through the airport during that time,” airport spokesperson Nicole Hall said.

Passengers stand in line at the Terminal 2 TSA checkpoint at San Diego International Airport on Dec. 21, 2021.
Roland Lizarondo
Passengers stand in line at the Terminal 2 TSA checkpoint at San Diego International Airport on Dec. 21, 2021.

Hall said thus far the airport has seen 25% more people pass through in 2021 than in 2020. Yet, the number of travelers will still be 20% fewer than in 2019.

On Tuesday morning, travelers, even ones who traveled across the country to get here, said their trips were uneventful.

Bill Dingman left Watertown, New York at 3 a.m. Tuesday to see his son for the holidays.

“The crowds weren’t too bad flying that early and, it was a great flight,” he said.

It was smooth flying for Jody Christopherson as well. She arrived from Madison, Wisconsin Tuesday morning to see an old friend.


“It was a piece of cake, and it was not crowded at all,” she said.

Travelers KPBS spoke with were relatively sanguine, even as the omicron variant spreads rapidly through the country.

“Anytime you’re traveling with crowds, just take some precautions but, for the most part you can’t live in fear,” Dingman said.

Christopherson was philosophical about the situation.

“I’m double vaxed and boosted and wash my hands constantly and wear my mask. That’s all you can do,” she said.

Hall's advice is to arrive two hours before your departure time if you’re flying domestically, three hours for international. Also, masks must be worn at all times while on airport property.

If you forget to bring one, you can buy them at these vending machines or get one for free at any airport information counter.