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Calm weather helps Sonoma travelers on busy holiday return day

Aaron Peltz and his son Evan, 4, collect their baggage after their flight from Portland, Ore., at the Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012.

BETH SCHLANKER/ PD
Published: Sunday, November 25, 2012 at 8:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 25, 2012 at 8:09 p.m.

Wheels up. Wheels down. Baggage in. Baggage out. Hello. Goodbye. Wheels up . . . wheels down . . .

The Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport was a bustling post-Thanskgiving travel spot on Sunday.

"Today is the busiest day of the year for us. All our flights are sold out," said Steven Beatty, station trainer for Alaska Airlines, speaking during a rare break in the action.

Five flights came in and five flights went out, from and to San Diego, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland, with 76 passengers on each plane.

"People are happy to have seen family. It's a lot of good vibes," Beatty said.

Part of that appeared to be the relative ease of it all.

"It's just great because we didn't have to go to Oakland," said Karin Ferro of Windsor, sounding a very common refrain.

She and her husband, Brent, waved goodbye to their daughter, Kirsten, who was disappearing into the departure lounge on her way back to Southern California, where she is a San Diego State University sophomore.

Outside, Linda Hennen of Santa Rosa waited for her grandson, who was also headed back to San Diego. The bad news: She'd given him the wrong departure time. The good news: He was so close by.

"I love having it here," she said of the airport, which is set to lengthen its main runway by mid-2014, allowing for up to 21 daily flights. "I hate going to Oakland or San Francisco."

Hennen said she uses the airport "more and more, because I have more grandkids going to college. Eight minutes from Bennett Valley to here."

Enzo Silipo waited for his parents to park the car and come in to send him off to San Diego, where the Santa Rosa native has lived for several years.

He flew up Wednesday into San Francisco, because the flight scheduling was better, but was grateful to be able to depart from Sonoma County.

"It's nice, you don't have to deal with the hassle of a long security line," he said. "And overall, my parents live five or 10 minutes away, so it's a huge convenience."

Fresh off a plane from Portland, Brittney Finck, a sophomore at Rio Lindo Adventist Academy boarding school in Healdsburg, waited for her ride.

She looked calm. The scene was mellow. Busy, but mellow.

"If I had to go all the way to San Francisco, that would be ridiculous," she said.

Some 43.6 million people were expected to travel 50 miles or more between Wednesday and Sunday, according to AAA. Favorable weather helped things along Sunday, and few travel delays were reported on what is the nation's busiest travel day of the year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com or on Twitter @jeremyhay

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