OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – As more people receive their COVID-19 vaccines, air travel is picking up at Bay Area airports, fueling hope that the industry may recover from the pandemic sooner than some had expected.

“Things are definitely trending in the right direction,” Oakland International Airport Aviation Director Bryant Francis told KPIX 5. “We are seeing stronger passenger levels on a consistent basis over these last few weeks.”

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Oakland International is hardly back to normal, but hitting 40% of pre-pandemic travel is a milestone they are willing to celebrate.

“I was just flying out of Newark and TSA lines were pretty full,” said Jennifer Ilonzeh. “And longer wait times than previously in the earlier times of the pandemic.”

Oakland International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2021. (CBS)

Oakland International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2021. (CBS)

The numbers are also up at San Francisco International Airport, with a mix of consistent pandemic travelers and new ones.

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“So since November 2019 this is the first time I’ve traveled,” said Kshitig Gaggar, who waited to travel until he got vaccinated.

“Airlines are noticing this change as well, and they are being more confident in number one, restoring the routes,” said SFO spokesperson Doug Yakel. “But also, very interestingly, adding new routes that they’ve never had before.”

While airports still have a lot of ground to cover, the growing numbers are a hopeful sign that the full industry rebound may come sooner than the three to five years some had feared.

“We believe that because most people have been grounded, if you will, for the last year, that there will be a lot of people that will be ready to pack their bags and go,” Francis said of future passenger loads.

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Yakel said, “As people start getting vaccinated and as some of these barriers start getting removed, it’s encouraging, and maybe will be on the short end of the spectrum.”