Holiday travelers sparse at BR airport this year 

Darren Catallo gave his wife Casey a big kiss on Christmas Day after he walked through the gate at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport.

He had been working on an oil rig in Midland, Texas, the last two weeks, and had flown in on Christmas Day to visit her family.

“It’s a pretty stinking good Christmas present,” Casey Catallo said when her husband arrived at about 12:30 p.m., before the storms swept through Baton Rouge.

The Catallos were among a smaller-than-usual crowd that spent part of their Christmas Day at the airport either sending off, or preparing to receive, loved ones.

Jim Caldwell, a spokesman for Baton Rouge Metro Airport, said the airport generally sees about half its usual number of passengers on Christmas Day because people normally fly a day or two before the holiday.

Delta, U.S. Airways, American Airlines and United scheduled 17 flights Tuesday, as opposed to upward of 30 on a normal day, he said.

Airport officials expected about 1,500 airplane passengers to fly in and out of Baton Rouge on Tuesday, Caldwell said.

“Tomorrow, you might have about double that,” he said.

Darren Catallo said flying on Christmas Day was the best time for him to travel because of his work schedule.

“It was easier as opposed to flying last night (on Monday),” he said.

Sabrina Banks was glad she finally made it to Baton Rouge early Tuesday afternoon. Her flight from Dallas had been delayed for several hours.

Banks, originally from Baton Rouge, works in San Francisco. She left San Francisco at 12:35 a.m. and arrived in Dallas at 6:30 a.m.

She was supposed to arrive in Baton Rouge around 8 a.m. but didn’t arrive until well past 12:30 p.m., but before the storm.

Banks said she has traveled on holidays in the past and usually doesn’t have this kind of trouble.

“I can’t wait get to get some of mom’s cooking,” she said with a laugh.

Those preparing for trips out of Baton Rouge on Tuesday didn’t face the usual hustle and bustle of an airport full of travelers.

The airport was relatively empty with only a few dozen people checking in for flights.

Jacqueline Menjivar-Whisnant; her husband, Christopher Whisnant Jr.; and his brother, Jonathon Whisnant, waited for only a few minutes in line to check in.

The trio, on their way to visit family in Colorado, had little baggage with them — aside from Menjivar-Whisnant’s puppy Zoe, who was flying for the first time.

Dealing with the Catahoula Cur, however, wasn’t the reason they chose to fly on Christmas Day. It was the cheaper tickets, Menjivar-Whisnant said.

Nancy Armstrong Williamston was making her second flight in several days on Tuesday.

Williamston, who lives in Wichita, Kan., and is originally from Baton Rouge, said she came home for a holiday family reunion this past Saturday.

“Twelve siblings, and all of us came across the country to Baton Rouge,” Williamston said.

Her sisters, Doretha Minor and Sadie Roberts-Joseph, saw their sibling leave as she traveled back to Wichita.

Williamston said she was looking forward to the Christmas Day travel.

“The line is not as long,” she said. “It seems like it’s going to be a breeze.”

For Carolyn Silvio, Christmas Day was much more bittersweet.

Silvio was seeing her son, who did not want to be named, fly back to Vail, Colo., where he has worked for the past six years for a technology company. He usually travels on holidays because it fits best with his work schedule.

For Thanksgiving, Silvio said, her son flew home a few days before the holiday and left on Thanksgiving Day.

Silvio, who teared up while talking about her son, said her daughter couldn’t even bring herself to see him leave because it would have made her too upset.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Silvio said. “I’m happy for him and sad for me. He loves what he does.”