SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Springfield-Branson National Airport continues to see an increase in passengers, reporting better numbers in March of 2022 than in March of 2019, the last spring before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kent Boyd, Spokesperson for the Springfield-Branson National Airport said March 2022 saw a 9% increase in passengers over March 2019.

“The bottom line is, pandemic or not, masking or not, people are flying like crazy,” Boyd said. “I really kind of see it as pent-up demand. While fares are up mainly because fuel prices are up due to what’s going on in Ukraine, from what we understand from the airlines, people are still booking flights like crazy.”

Boyd said the airport was caught off guard when a federal judge overruled the CDC Monday, which meant the federal mask mandate was dropped.

“It’s a really peculiar situation because it was less than a week ago the federal government extended the masking mandate for two weeks,” Boyd said. “And so we were all expecting it to go away on May third and then the federal judge on Monday said, ‘hey, it’s out of here.'”

Boyd said he thinks it would be difficult for the federal government to reinstate the mask mandate.

“I really think people have gotten to the point that living with the pandemic has become easier from a mental health point of view and that masking, for a lot of folks, is just a reminder,” Boyd said.

The Justice Department said Tuesday it will not appeal a federal district judge’s ruling that ended the nation’s federal mask mandate on public transit unless the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes the requirement is still necessary.