Sacramento International Airport expects record-breaking travel numbers this Christmas


SACRAMENTO — Heading home for the holidays? Expect busy airports and delayed flights.

Sacramento International Airport said Thursday and Friday will be the busiest days of the year and a heavy storm system in the Midwest is making nationwide travel more difficult.

A short travel day turned into a 22-hour overnight stay in the Denver airport for one Maryland couple heading west.

“I don’t think there was a flight that left after 8,” Payton Burnham said after arriving in Sacramento.

A storm kept their flight on the ground. That’s a fear for flyers heading into the holiday weekend.

“Blizzard full-blown, couldn’t see out the airplane window,” Burnham said.

She and her partner Kevin left Maryland at 4 p.m. on Wednesday and are finally in Sacramento. They were greeted by family members waiting patiently for their arrival.

The days leading up to Christmas are expected to be the busiest travel days of the already record-breaking year.

“The holidays of course are the busiest time of year for airports. We are expecting some pretty high passenger volumes today and tomorrow. We expect those to be the busiest days before the holidays,” said Sacramento International Airport (SMF) spokesperson Andrea Sandoval.

She said flyers should be prepared.

“We do expect it might be on par with 2019 levels, so pre-COVID,” Sandoval said.

Last December, 958,000 people traveled through Sacramento. In December 2020, at the height of the pandemic, that number was only 426,000. In December 2019, pre-pandemic, 1.1 million people traveled through the airport.

This year, December travel is expected to break that record even with storms around the country grounding flights.

“It has impacted some flights. There’s been some delays and cancellations,” Sandoval said.

SMF suggests arriving at the airport early for flights and tracking cancellations or delays via airline emails.


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