Spring Break rush: Valley airport sees increase of passengers from previous year

HARLINGEN — Not every college student coming through Valley International Airport this week is shuttling off to South Padre Island.

But most of them are.

Those who aren’t, are using the Harlingen airport as a transit point to Cancun. Puerto Vallarta is another popular destination this year, too.

No matter where they’re going, Tony Hinojos, station manager for Southwest Airlines, said bookings were up.

“We’ve been pretty busy, pretty busy. And of course you’ve got Holy Week coming up,” Hinojos said yesterday.

“We’ve experienced some oversells as well,” Hinojos added. “Not enough seats.”

Southwest at Harlingen is averaging almost 40 more passengers a day this year, which is 12.7 percent above this time last year, Hinojos said. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines also offer flights to and from Harlingen.

There’s nothing quite like a Valley airport on a pleasant spring day. The serious and determined business traveler has been replaced by the happy-go-lucky traveler who is going on vacation.

A few college students heading for Spring Break were at the airport yesterday, but the real Spring Break crush will start today with early weekend travelers arriving to use Valley International Airport as their springboard to either South Padre or Mexico.

Those who were passing through yesterday didn’t have time to chat.

The start of spring break, what with rushing to make flights and get to a hotel, is not the place where time can be wasted. That, no doubt, will come later.

“It’s going to be like almost a four-week thing,” said Jose Mulet, director of marketing for VIA, what with spring break and Holy Week overlapping this year.

The airport has prepared for the Spring Break rush this year, Mulet said, pointing out the new airport shuttles that will move travelers between Harlingen and South Padre Island.

In past years, visitors to South Padre Island during spring break have numbered more than 85,000 just in March. Those tourists have an economic impact on the Island and the Rio Grande Valley that’s in excess of $200 million annually, studies have shown.