NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The day before Thanksgiving was off to a bustling start at Nashville International Airport Wednesday as people filed in amid an expected surge of travelers for the holiday.

“It means we’re growing, it means people are able to get out and go visit their family members so it’s a really good feeling,” said Doug Kreulen, President/CEO of the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority. “I think a few people actually snuck out Friday, Friday and for the last couple of days, it’s been building up. [We’re now] waiting for them to come back Sunday, Monday next week.”

He said BNA will have 536 commercial airline flights Wednesday, which is a huge difference from what they saw during the slowest times of the pandemic.

“The slowest we had was on April 8, 2020. We only had 545 people moving around the airport and today we’ll have about 56,000 or a little bit more than that,” Kruelen said.

Travelers are urged to arrive at least two hours before their flights, which were running on time overall with only one canceled departure throughout the morning. The checkpoint wait times averaged between five and 10 minutes. Kreulen explained that they prepared for the surge in travelers by making sure the airport had adequate staffing, including security to ensure safety and customer service representatives who can help people who haven’t traveled over the past 18 months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Travelers arrived to the airport ready to see their loved ones, including Franklin resident Patrick Topolinski.

“During COVID it [airport] was a ghost town. We would travel it was a little easier getting to places, parking was a little easier, now it’s getting back to normal, a little bit above normal actually,” Topolinski said. “It’s very nice to be able to do things, I’m not saying it’s back to 100% but to be able to see family, to be able to travel a lot easier, it’s really nice.”

According to Kreulen, BNA is on its way to even beat the numbers they saw before the pandemic.

“Right now we’re trending about 9-10% bigger than we were before the pandemic so it’s good to see everybody getting out and traveling again,” Kreulen said.

That’s why he said the expansion currently underway remains necessary as construction progresses.

“We’re four years into a six-year program, another 22 months and we’ll cut a really big ribbon and unify the two terminals again at that point,” he said. “Nashville’s continuing to grow and our board of commissioners and the staff are actually working on the plans for the next extension.”