NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — AAA predicts that 54.6 million people will travel more than 50 miles from home this Thanksgiving.

And with air travel up nearly 8% from last year, 4.5 million Americans are expected to travel by plane.

Airports across the country are seeing an increase in visitors for the holiday season. And that’s no different here in North Dakota.

“As we approach the holiday travel season, we’ve seen a lot of traffic through XWA, both coming and going,” said Anthony Dudas, the Williston airport director.

The Williston Basin International Airport opened three years ago and the airport director says air travel traffic was good, up until the pandemic.

“When we commenced operations in 2019, we had really tremendous support from our community and from our region that uses XWA. Unfortunately, we went through a pandemic shortly after that. Approximately six months after, we saw a dramatic downturn in service. About 95% reduction in passenger traffic and all the other business that operates at the Williston Airport,” said Dudas.

Dudas says now the airport has seen an increase in airline service from United and Delta and even brought on a new airline: Sun Country.

And the good news for them, he says this fall, XWA has had the best travel numbers since it opened.

“Specifically September and October were the best months we’ve had since we opened XWA and last month in October, was actually the best month we’ve seen since September of 2015 in Williston,” said Dudas.

And looking over at Minot International Airport, the numbers are looking good for travelers there as well.

“Holiday travels have been very busy this week. We’ve had many planes that have left the airport at full capacity, so 100% filled. And so we’re very excited about the return of travelers to the area and to our airport,” said Jennifer Eckman, the Minot airport director.

Eckman says the number of flights at the airport depends on the day, but on average it’s about five to seven.

She says the traffic of passengers to and from the airport, is about the same.

“It’s about even, it’s about even. We’re anticipating a little more than 3,000 passengers going through the terminals this weekend,” said Eckman.

Both airport directors say they want passengers to stay safe when flying this holiday season.

The Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, anticipates increasingly busy checkpoints through this Sunday.

The TSA could screen as many as 2.5 million passengers nationwide on Wednesday and more than 2.5 million on Sunday.