MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Although Myrtle Beach International Airport officials estimate 1,069 fewer seats available to passengers during Thanksgiving week than last year, they’re hoping for a higher demand in travel than what they’ve seen over the last few months.

“We’re expecting it to be a fairly busy travel season for Thanksgiving,” MYR International spokesperson Ryan Betcher said. “The two busy periods around Thanksgiving are going to be the weekend before and the weekend after, also the Wednesday right before Thanksgiving is going to be a little bit busier.”

Betcher says for the Saturday before the Thanksgiving holiday through the Sunday after there are 21,090 available seats to passengers from MYR, while there were 22,159 available seats to passengers for the same period in 2019.

He says although there’s a 5% decrease in available seats, likely due to COVID-19, it demonstrates a strong demand for air travel to and from the MYR airport during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Locals like Erin Oldenburg noticed a drop in passengers in the airport when she brought her husband to the airport for a trip back home to Minnesota.

“When I dropped him off last week it was maybe three people in here,”” she said.

Others, like Amy Alsobrook, like the lack of crowds coming through.

“It’s been pretty easy,” she said. “We went to Alaska earlier this year and it’s like we had the whole place to ourselves.”

Tuesday, Oldenburg picked up her best friend at MYR after going a year without seeing her. The delay in visiting, she says, is mostly due to the pandemic.

“I actually had a lot of vacation that I had used up for the end of the year, but I haven’t used that time to travel back home because my mom had a kidney transplant last year and right now I just don’t want to put her at risk,” Oldenburg said.

For Karen Dear, best friend to Oldenburg, it was her first flight since before the pandemic began. When COVID-19 just began to be discovered, she says she chose to drive.

“We had a flight to Denver from Minneapolis, which is a safe trip too, but everyone that was coming off of the planes were so sick, and this was before we knew the strikes of COVID, so we just opted to rent a car and drive,” said Dear.

All three ladies say they plan to stay home for the Thanksgiving holiday.

In reference to COVID-19 safety precautions and cleaning practices, MYR recently earned a GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council. According to the GBAC, this means the MYR facility demonstrates correct work practices, procedures and systems in place to prepare, respond and recover from outbreaks and pandemics.

Betcher says MYR is the eighth airport in the world and the only airport in the Carolinas and Georgia to achieve the accreditation.

Betcher tells News13 the airport has lost revenue due to COVID-19, however, CARES Act funding has been primarily used towards 50% reimbursement of airport salary related expenses and Debt Service payments.

He also says the airport maintains sufficient cash reserves to ensure continued operations for the foreseeable future.

For Thanksgiving week, the airport plans to reduce the daily/overnight rate for the short-term parking lot by 30% to accommodate passengers traveling for the holiday.