PDX flights on the rise as pandemic recovery begins

Nonstop transatlantic service returns to PDX this summer, amid rise in air travel

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Grab a suitcase and some slip-on shoes, because air travel in Portland is soaring near pre-pandemic levels for the first time in almost two years.

In February of 2022, over 996,000 people traveled through the Portland International Airport (PDX). While those numbers are not quite as high as the 1.3 million travelers reported prior to the pandemic in 2019 and 2020, it is a significant increase from the 395,000 travelers seen in February of 2021.

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

However, after airports across the U.S. have experienced decreased travel destinations, capacity limits and flight cancellations caused by COVID-19 surges, bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels is not an easy feat.

Manager of Media Relations at Port of Portland Kama Simonds said in recent months the Port has seen an ongoing rise in air travel which she expects will continue into the summer as airlines add more destinations.

“Travel is continuing to increase, aided in part by the lifting of some travel restrictions,” Simonds explained. “I can tell you that we’re looking forward to this summer when we anticipate the return of all of our nonstop transatlantic service.”

According to Simonds, beginning in May Icelandair and Condor will return to fly nonstop to Reykjavik, Iceland and Frankfurt, and Germany.

Additionally, Delta Airlines is slated to return its nonstop PDX-Amsterdam flight as early as June 3, and British Airways is expected to fly nonstop from PDX to London’s Heathrow airport.

Simonds pointed out that none of these flights were available in 2020 and Icelandair only served PDX for a limited time last summer.

The return to nonstop transatlantic service may be a response to rising demand.

In a release last week, the Port said “Just over a million travelers are expected to pass through PDX during the peak spring travel period, spanning 25 days from March 17 through April 10 and encompassing both Oregon and Washington school spring breaks.”

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

While data shows air travel through PDX has continued to climb, Simonds said the Port’s ability to fully recover is still heavily reliant on travel restrictions.

“At PDX, we’re currently seeing travel numbers which are about 70% of pre-pandemic levels,” Simonds stated. “The return of business travel is a big component of getting back to, and exceeding, pre-pandemic passenger travel levels. As more employees return to the office and as companies ease up on business travel restrictions, we expect to see travel figures continue to move toward pre-pandemic levels.”

Until then, Simonds said the Port’s Air Service Development team is working closely with PDX airline partners to keep them up to date on the most recent market trends, so they can better serve the community’s needs as they transition to meet increased demand.

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

She continued on to say they believe “helping provide accurate information helps the airlines be successful when they enter or return to the market.”