RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The start of the pandemic brought airline travel to a standstill, but now that vaccines are widely available residents’ hunger to travel has grown.

Last year Jeremy Santoscoy, P.E. Deputy Director of Aviation for the McAllen International Airport said they had a record number of passengers. 

“2019 was our previous record-setting year; now with 2021 numbers behind us we had almost 850,000 through the airport passengers come through the airport,” said Santoscoy. 

Santoscoy credited the growth to the new destinations added to their service.

“We bought Nashville, we bought Monterey and Guatemala back into our service,” said Santoscoy. 

In Harlingen, Valley International Airport Director of Air Service and Business Development, Nicolas Mirman said they also had a comeback last year thanks to the travelers staying longer. 

“Incoming passengers that are coming to the island in our region stay longer work from here,” said Mirman. 

In the lower valley, Francisco Partida, Interim Assistant Director of Aviation for the Brownsville South Padre International Airport didn’t see the automatic bounce back until the vaccines started to roll out.

“We started a little weak to be honest with about minus 24 percent by the summer of 2021 we started to see better numbers and then we closed the year with positive numbers and positive growth,” said Partida

All three airports said because of the boost in passengers there was also an economic benefit for the community. 

“If you think about that, every time you get a passenger coming to our region to stay somewhere they have to eat either Rent-A-Car,” said Mirman. 

Mirman also said the airport in Harlingen is making improvements to keep up its passenger flow. 

“So we are actually gonna be doing a lot of work on the operational side. The main runway is going to be extended and also the landing equipment it’s going to be updated,” said Mirman. 

Mirman also said they’re planning to have their partnered airlines extend flights and seats.