On Friday afternoon, several groups of college students filled the ticketing level of Pittsburgh International Airport.
Ashley Wertman and Sarah Andrews, enrolled in Duquesne University’s Nursing Program, were heading to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
“We just finished a midterm about an hour ago,” said Wertman, after checking in at the Spirit Airlines ticket counter. “We don’t have plans, but our Airbnb is on the beach, so we’re just going to hang out and hopefully get a tan.”
The aspiring nurses aren’t alone. Millions of passengers are expected to travel during the Spring Break season over the next few weeks. Though numbers for this year haven’t been released, the Transportation Security Administration prepared to screen more than 100 million travelers nationwide during last year’s Spring Break travel season, an increase of about 3 percent, year-over-year.
According to industry publications Travel + Leisure and The Points Guy, top destinations during the Spring Break travel season include Palm Springs, California; Cancun, Mexico, Phoenix and New Orleans, among other warm-weather cities.
It’s not all fun in the sun. Anthony Vanden Berk was one of 11 students departing Pittsburgh International on Friday for a mission trip in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The group attending the weeklong-trip organized by St. Vincent College’s Campus Ministry group were departing PIT for Toronto on Air Canada and connecting on to Sao Paulo International Airport.
“This is one of several service trips our Campus Ministry puts on,” Berk said. “We are going to be visiting young children at two different schools and will be helping with day-to-day things, like teaching the kids and helping them with their school work, and we’ll also be going to a soup kitchen.”
In addition to airports preparing to handle an increase in passengers, airlines and tour operators, including Atlanta-based Vacation Express, adjust flight schedules to account for higher volumes of travelers during the spring months.
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“When planning our flights each year, we take into account the most popular all-inclusive beach resorts and destinations for local travelers looking to get away,” said Vacation Express President Rene Jongmans. “This year, we have amazing deals and non-stop flights to Cancun, one of the most popular spots for families in Pittsburgh during the Spring Break season.”
At Pittsburgh International, Vacation Express currently offers once-weekly, seasonal flights to Cancun. The tour operator is also scheduled to offer nonstop flights from PIT to Punta Cana, a popular destination in the Dominican Republic, Montego Bay, Jamaica and Los Cabos, Mexico this summer.
Additionally, Mexican low-cost carrier VivaAerobus will operate multiple flights, scheduled for Spring Break travelers, between Los Cabos International Airport and Pittsburgh. The flights are scheduled to depart on March 7 and return on March 14.
PIT’s Vice President of Landside and Terminal Operations, Brian Stashak, said the airport prepares for the increase in passenger traffic during the Spring Break season by working with local TSA officials and other airport partners including concessions.
“In the past, we’ve had Spring Break charters scheduled in the early morning hours and had to make special accommodations,” Stashak said. “This year, the charters are scheduled during normal hours, but it still requires additional resources. The big thing is to make sure from an operations and a customer experience standpoint, that it’s an efficient and positive experience for passengers.”