Thanksgiving travel at Des Moines airport falls short of pre-pandemic level

Despite high expectations, Thanksgiving travel at Des Moines International Airport for the third year in a row fell short of the prepandemic level, the airport confirmed Monday.

Airport figures show that during the six-day holiday travel period, 23,511 travelers passed through the airport, about 4% short of the 24,478 during the same period in 2019, the last Thanksgiving before the COVID-19 pandemic reached Iowa in 2019.

That was despite October being the first month in which the number of people using the airport exceeded the figure for the same month in 2019.

Before the pandemic, the airport had been setting annual records for travel, and airport officials, who are preparing to expand the aging Des Moines terminal, continue to anticipate the growth in volume will return to its previous pace.

Travelers walk through the terminal at Des Moines International Airport.
Travelers walk through the terminal at Des Moines International Airport.

Previously:Des Moines airport Thanksgiving traffic expected to exceed prepandemic level

Though traffic fell short of the record, the Sunday after Thanksgiving was ― as usual ― the busiest travel day of the year to date, with almost 5,000 people passing through the airport, said Kayla Kavorna, an airport spokesperson.

She suggested one reason may be that as a result of the pandemic, people now working part or all of their time remotely have more options for scheduling their travel.

"Some people might be taking advantage of flexible work schedules, and so they may have adjusted their travel plans and headed to their destination a few days earlier, which might be outside of the traditional five-to-six-day travel window that we typically track year to year."

She said overall travel for November, for which figures weren't yet available, could still reflect higher volume across the month.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is typically the busiest travel day of the year. Korvana said it held steady this year, with nearly 5,000 passengers going through the terminal.

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December still is expected to be a strong month overall for travel. The schedule shows a decrease in departures for 2022 as compared to 2021, but the number of available seats is up nearly 2 percent.

"We have more seats leaving DSM, just on fewer aircraft, because a lot of airlines have upgraded their aircraft." Kavorna said.

She also noted an increase in the number of destination passengers can reach from Des Moines.

"We also see that we have 28 destinations this year compared to only 21 in 2019," Kavorna said.

Allegiant Air in partticular has added flights to its nonstop service.

Kavorna said she continues to recommend allowing extra time to park, get checked in and get through security. Passengers can consult a screen at the base of the escalators leading to the checkpoints to see the Transportation Security Administration's estimated wait times and general boarding times.

This article has been edited to correct a comparison between 2022 and 2021 that had an incorrect date.

Noelle Alviz-Gransee is a general assignment reporter at the Des Moines Register. Follow her on Twitter at@NoelleHannika or email her at

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: No Des Moines record set for Thanksgiving holiday travel