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Businesses reliant on travelers start to rebound as the travel industry recovers

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Posted at 4:00 PM, May 19, 2021

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The airline industry is seeing signs of recovery, and it's welcome news for businesses that rely on travelers.

Sunday marked the first time TSA screenings topped 1.8 million since the start of the pandemic.

“If I look out the window, I see planes taking off. Of course not as often as they used to be," said Susan McMillion, owner at Bootstrap Kombucha in San Diego.

When McMillion opened her kombucha brewery six years ago, she took a chance on its location. They couldn’t afford rent in a more walkable district, instead, landing on a space next to the San Diego International Airport.

“We started out on a shoestring," said McMillion. "That’s basically why we call our company Bootstrap, because we've really started out with nothing."

With a 20-foot kombucha flag waving outside, the tasting room became a convenient stop for travelers touching down in the city or on layovers.

“They’ll come in for a flight while they’re waiting for their flight," McMillion explained.

But with ongoing travel restrictions and a hesitancy to fly, the pandemic grounded roughly 30 percent of her customer base.

“It was a very hard year for us. We let our employees go, and basically, I run the shop with my partner coming in after hours to help with some of the production. It was very difficult," said McMillion.

But in recent weeks, she's heard the sound of planes passing above more and more.

The San Diego Airport saw its busiest day of travel since the pandemic on Mother's Day. In anticipation of more travelers, they reopened the cell phone lot after closing it down more than a year ago.

“In April, when we closed the cell phone lot, our passenger volume had decreased by 96 percent. So, we really didn’t really have people coming to the airport," said Nicole Hall, senior communications specialist for the airport. "Giving people the option to go to the cell phone lot and make that experience coming to the airport a little easier, we wanted to provide that.”

At airports worldwide, amenities like lounges, restaurants, and cell phone lots are reopening after more than a year.

As of May 18, TSA checkpoint numbers have surpassed 27.5 million passengers, up from nearly 3.5 million passengers this time last year.

“It's safe to say, I think, that with people getting vaccinated, they’re feeling a little bit more confident," said Hall. "We’re excited to see some of these things return to normal. Not everything, but we are excited to see some of these things return to normal."

But travelers can expect to see many health and safety changes remain as airports continue to follow federal, state, and local mandates.

"Wearing masks is essential; you must wear a mask in the airport. We also encourage people to social distance. All of the measures that we've taken to protect people are still in place," said Hall.

And she says the recovery still has a way to go. By this time in 2019, TSA screened nearly 43 million passengers.

But with each plane that passes by, McMillion is hopeful more customers from around the world will be stopping by her tasting room.

“Our hours are going to start expanding now that things are opening up," said McMillion. "Look us up online, Bootstrap Kombucha. Have a flight, enjoy themselves, and spread the word!”