EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The holidays are always a hectic time, add travel to that menu and even on the best of days, residents are rushing around. One El Pasoan who wanted to be home for the holidays talks about the challenges he faced during his trek to the Borderland.

El Paso International Airport officials, passenger traffic is up nearly 80% this year over last, as it is across the nation. El Pasoan Matthew Hernandez experienced this uptick – and all the attendant facets this holiday season.

Hernandez’s first flight – from Houston to Phoenix – was delayed, leading to a four-hour layover. He says the airport was so busy and overcrowded, people were sitting on any available space, waiting for their flights, leaving no room for recently arrived passengers.

“I did have to wait in a different terminal because there was no seating there, boarding the plane as well was pretty bad, it took a while because it was a full plane and landing, waiting for my bag…it was just pretty packed”

Matthew Hernandez – Passenger

With the delay, his travel time quickly multiplied, making the 8 hour drive from San Antonio to El Paso that much more appealing.

He adds that the reduction in desired flight times also has him considering that drive back home.

“I did pick the cheapest flight and the shortest flight, and it was still about a 6-hour flight when the drive itself is only 8 hours and you’re trying to fly to you know to limit that amount of time you’re traveling and it seems like every time I go online the flights are more like there’s less options for flights,” Hernandez says.

However, even with all the delays and second thoughts, he says flying is still a better optoin.

“Personally would sill suggest just flying because I just feel it’s the most, the easiest way to do something,” Hernandez adds.

In addition to the peak travel time, COVID has wreaked havoc with some major carriers. The Associated Press reported both Delta and United together canceled more than 600 flights due to staffing shortage associated with the omicron variant.

As for trying to beat the traveling crowds, airport officials encourage travelers to arrive early, allowing time for parking, time at the ticket counters and security checkpoints.

Airport officials share that their peak travel time is the early morning, with over a dozen flights that depart El Paso between 5 and 9 a.m.

For more info on flights, tips and other suggestions, visit the El Paso International Airport’s site by clicking here.

For local and breaking news, sports, weather alerts, video and more, download the FREE KTSM 9 News App from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.