By Betty Yu

SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KPIX 5) — More than a year after the pandemic grounded the airline industry to a near halt, travel is finally taking off again.

Planes are filling up, lines are growing, and there’s optimism in the air. San Francisco International Airport is now moving into a busy travel season, as people become more confident in taking to the skies and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxes guidelines.

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“Just to get out of the house, just out of the state, get out of town, just to go somewhere to relax and just have fun,” said Cora Lafaele of Fresno, who was traveling to New York City for the first time to celebrate her sister’s 30th birthday.

“It just feels good to be getting out of dodge and seeing family again and just a little bit of normalcy,” said Karen Moulds of Los Altos. “And we have so many travel certificates from all the flights we had to cancel.”

Moulds was flying to New York to see her dad for the first time in two years.

“I think all of us were a little bit in the doldrums, little bit down and out after a while and I think this is very uplifting for us to be able to get out,” said Pete Moulds of Los Altos.

Last weekend, SFO said 65,898 passengers departed the airport – up from 60,465 a month ago. By comparison, more than 210,000 passengers flew out of SFO the same weekend, a year before the pandemic.

On Thursday, Alaska Airlines surprised passengers on a newly-reactivated flight route to New York’s JFK International Airport.

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The “Delight Flight” included break dancers, a DJ, and a dance-off between passengers for prizes.

The airline handed out surprises to celebrate its recent surge in bookings, which it says are currently 80% of what they were pre-pandemic.

“The trends are going up. People are booking not just now, but for future travel, summer travel is going to be peaking and these flights that were dormant for a year-plus are now coming back,” said Alaska Airlines spokesperson Franco Finn. “And people are feeling just a lot better.”

Alaska Airlines says it’s also adding more flights and routes out of SFO to places close to national parks and popular open spaces to meet demand.

Travel blog and website The Points Guy says short domestic trips are increasingly hot.

“You still don’t have business travelers out and about, so what you’re seeing instead is a surge in demand for leisure travelers,” said Senior News Editor Clint Henderson. “That means routes that use to be cheap, like Fort Lauderdale to Las Vegas or San Francisco to Seattle are now expensive, because that’s where the demand is now.”

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