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Number of vehicles exceed parking capacity, as Durango-La Plata County Airport experiences big holiday weekend

Number of Thanksgiving travelers increase across the country
Aviation Director Tony Vicari says parking capacity at Durango-La Plata County Airport, seen here in December 2015, was exceeded by 100 cars because of the number of travelers over Thanksgiving weekend. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Thanksgiving weekend traffic at Durango-La Plata County Airport was up 21% from last year, according to Aviation Director Tony Vicari.

Vicari told the The Durango Herald on Saturday that the holiday travel had the potential to be record breaking. Data released Monday confirmed that sentiment.

“I think it's fairly safe to say that this was probably our busiest Thanksgiving week we've seen in the history of the airport,” Vicari said.

The Thanksgiving holiday traffic boost is nothing new to those who work in the airline industry, as the holiday is consistently one of the most traveled weekends of the year.

According to data from statista, a data analysis company often used by businesses to evaluate industry studies and consumer survey results, there were roughly 55.4 million travelers during Thanksgiving weekend nationwide. This was up from 54 million in 2022.

Thanksgiving flight deals averaged $248 for domestic round trips, according to flight-tracking site Hopper. That number was down from $271 last year and $276 in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The United States Department Inflation Report indicates that airfare was down more than 13%.

Vicari said the traffic could be best represented from the amount of parking spaces that were taken up at the airport’s day lots.

Area travelers took up so many parking spaces, airport staff were forced to direct vehicles to park in the employee parking, waiting and cellphone lots.

Parking lots at the airport have the capacity for about 1,000 vehicles, and it was surpassed by about 100 over the weekend, Vicari said.

“Heading into the year, we actually added just shy of 70 additional parking spaces in our overflow lot in anticipation of a busy Thanksgiving. And despite that effort, we actually maxed out our parking,” Vicari said.

While it’s always busy during the Thanksgiving weekend, Vicari also said the airport has never reached the parking capacity that it did.

Vicari couldn’t point to a particular reason why the Thanksgiving holiday seems to spark such a high travel rate compared to holidays like Christmas. However, he said it falls in line with travel trends across the country.

His best guess is that Thanksgiving is a more universally celebrated holiday than religion-specific holidays like Christmas or Hanukkah. From a Southwest Colorado perspective, it’s also a chance to travel before weather conditions worsen.

However, the airport did struggle with weather this past Friday, as two outbound American Airlines flights were delayed for over seven hours because of a shortage of de-icing fluid.

“We had some challenges with snowfall on Friday and Saturday but ultimately made it through those,” Vicari said.

Although Thanksgiving is a big weekend for the airport, Vicari says peak summer season still trumps winter holiday travel.

He said there’s more overall traffic during the summer, but Thanksgiving tends to favor local travelers.

In September, the airport reported a 16% increase in traffic between June and August compared to the same months in 2022.


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