COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Americans are taking to the skies for holiday travel at nearly pre-pandemic levels. At John Glenn International Airport, staff expects the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving to be the busiest period in nearly two years, with 155,500 people departing the airport between Thursday, November 18 and Monday, November 29.

Wednesday, commonly known as one of the busiest travel days of the year, 15,000 passengers were scheduled to take off from Columbus.

“I was expecting it to be busy, so I came to the airport nice and early for my flight,” said Kyle Hoogstraten, who was returning home to Florida for the holiday.

Early morning travelers did not encounter many long wait times at airline check-in counters or at the security checkpoints at CMH. Many waited for less than 15 minutes.

“I think coming this early, there was not too much traffic driving in, there weren’t too many other travelers. So it was pretty smooth,” said GerriAnn Martin, who arrived in Columbus from LaGuardia early Wednesday.

The Columbus airport said, while this season’s travel will be up 45% from 2020, it will still be down from 2019. Additionally, many of the pandemic-era safety protocols are still in place.

Passengers on all planes and all visitors must wear masks inside the airport and on airport shuttles. Some destinations may also require proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

“It’s an added stress that we would like to not have, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, I guess,” said Bella Monk.

She was traveling to Hawaii with her new husband Seth for a Thanksgiving honeymoon Wednesday.

“We need a negative COVID test to get on the flight to get to Hawaii. So we’re waiting for the results still. It’s taking a long time,” Bella explained.

Seth added, “The results were supposed to be back in one to days days and we’re getting close to two days now.”

The newlyweds said the delay would likely force them to take a Thursday flight, but they also said they were grateful to be traveling.

“This is my first flight so it’s going to be a doozy,” laughed Seth Monk.

Airport staff recommends budgeting extra time into plans for holiday travel: arriving two hours before departure for domestic flights, or three hours for international flights, to allow plenty of time to get through ticketing and security.