SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It was a busy Memorial Day weekend of summer travel as TSA screened more than 11 million people at airport checkpoints over the past five days.

Airlines are preparing for incredibly high demand the rest of the summer.

Gary Hartshorn is a frequent flyer for work and has already noticed the increase in summer travelers.

“Absolutely,” Hartshorn said. “Last year everybody went on vacation after the pandemic and more people are going on vacation even this year.”

“In March we had an all-time record for the number of travelers for any month and April was a record for the month of April,” Sioux Falls Regional Airport Executive Director Dan Letellier said.  “Leading into the summer we’ve had a lot of people traveling, much more than what we’ve seen in the last two to three years.”

With more people traveling this summer, it’s a good idea to get to the airport early. While you might not have a long line here in Sioux Falls, your return flight could be a very different story.

“If you’re coming back from a larger city, we’ve heard airports security line and agents and all along the line they’re short staffed,” Letellier said. “So you add in a lot of travelers than we’ve seen in the last two or three years and the infrastructure not being able to handle the volume of people.”

Those staffing shortages combined with the increased cost of fuel has meant a big increase in airfare this summer.

“I think if you haven’t purchased your tickets yet, you’re really going to be surprised about how much the air fares have gone up,” Letellier said. 

“I definitely have noticed that ticket prices have gone up,” Dan Carlisle said at the Sioux Falls airport.

It’s a sticker shock Dan Carlisle felt with his last-minute trip to South Dakota this past Memorial Day weekend.

“If I could have adjusted it by a few days I could have saved a couple hundred bucks,” Carlisle said. 
“They’ve gone up about 20 percent,” Hartshorn said. 

Hartshorn says his regular flight from Denver to Sioux Falls is now $60 to $75 more than usual.
Bridget: Do you think the prices are keeping anyone from traveling.
Hartshorn: Absolutely not, no not at all.

But even with a higher price, many people are still choosing to fly for their summer travels.

“Driving is just too far, too much money, too much time,” Carlisle said. 

“You get there faster,” Hartshorn said. “And when you actually do the numbers, and you fly instead of drive, you’re actually saving time, hotels, money, rental cars and stress driving.”

Letellier said from March to April airfares across the country increased an average of 33 percent in just one month. This July, Letellier says some of the lowest airfares you’ll find out of Sioux Falls on traditional airlines begin at more than $500.