PDX flights on the rise as pandemic recovery begins

    Non-stop transatlantic service returns to PDX this summer, amid a surge in air travel

    PORTLAND, Oregon (KOIN) – Grab a bag and some slip-ons, because air travel in Portland is rising near pre-pandemic levels for the first time in nearly two years.

    In February of 2022, more than 996,000 people traveled through Portland International Airport (PDX). While these numbers aren’t quite as high as the 1.3 million passengers reported before the pandemic in 2019 and 2020, they are a significant increase from the 395,000 passengers seen in February of 2021.

    As outlined in the Portland Strategic Plan 2022-2025, the agency stated that one of its primary goals is to “recover from the COVID-19 pandemic by improving customer service and rebuilding air service.”

    However, after airports across the United States have seen travel destinations decline, capacity limits and flight cancellations due to COVID-19 booms, getting back to pre-pandemic levels isn’t easy.

    Kama Symonds, Portland’s director of media relations, said in recent months that the port has seen a steady rise in air travel that she expects to continue into the summer as airlines add more destinations.

    “Travel is increasing, supported in part by the lifting of some travel restrictions,” Symonds explained. “I can tell you that we’re looking forward to this summer when we expect all of our non-stop transatlantic services to return.”

    According to Symonds, starting in May, Icelandair and Condor Airlines will return nonstop to Reykjavik, Iceland, Frankfurt and Germany.

    In addition, Delta Air Lines is scheduled to return its non-stop PDX-Amsterdam flight as early as June 3, and British Airways is expected to fly non-stop from PDX to London Heathrow.

    Symonds noted that none of these flights were available in 2020 and that Iceland Air only served PDX for a limited time last summer.

    A return to non-stop transatlantic service may be in response to increased demand.

    In a statement released last week, the port said, “More than one million passengers are expected to pass through PDX during the peak spring travel period, which runs 25 days from March 17 through April 10 and includes school spring breaks in Oregon and Washington.”

    According to public flight data, Oregonians are booking flights at much higher rates than seen last year.

    While data shows air travel via PDX has continued to rise, Simonds said the port’s ability to fully recover remains highly dependent on travel restrictions.

    “In PDX, we are currently seeing travel numbers that are about 70% of pre-pandemic levels,” Symonds stated. “The return of business trips is a major component of getting back to and beyond pre-pandemic passenger travel levels. With more employees returning to the office and as companies easing travel restrictions for work, we expect to see travel numbers continue to move toward pre-pandemic levels.”

    Until then, Symonds said the port’s air services development team is working closely with PDX airline partners to keep them abreast of the latest market trends, so they can better meet the needs of the community as they move to meet growing demand.

    “We give our partners an accurate picture of what’s happening in Portland,” Symonds said. “As you can imagine, an airline serving more than 45 destinations, for example, would be hard-pressed to have the time to collect this level of data for all cities.”

    She added that they believe that “helping to provide accurate information helps airlines succeed as they enter or return to the market.”