Orlando International Airport preparing for Christmas travel period

The Christmas holiday travel season begins Friday at Orlando International Airport.

Airport leaders said about 1.5 million people will travel in and out of the airport over the next three weeks.

The busiest day for Christmas departures is expected to be Dec. 27. Jan. 3 is expected to be the busiest day for New Year departures.

The CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Phil Brown, said travel is down about 50 percent from this time last year.

"I don’t know that we’ll make up for the losses," Brown said. "I mean, we’re in a pretty deep hole. Our goal is to gradually bring back the traffic, get back up and continue to grow and try to reach where we were and then hopefully grow some more."

MORE NEWS: Break out the blankets! Central Florida to drop into the 30s, 40s

About 35,000 people are expected to fly out of the airport on the first day of the Christmas travel season.

Staff said they are making sure everything is clean and passengers are following CDC guidelines while they are flying.

FOX 35 spoke to a couple who just flew into Orlando from Colorado. They said people are following the rules.

"It seems everyone was honoring their masks and trying to social distance," traveler Karla Blank said. "For the first time, we saw getting off the plane, everybody waited in sections. It took a few extra minutes, but everybody just took their time. Like two rows stood up at a time."

The airport still plans to offer coronavirus testing at the main terminal. Officials said they are working with the CDC to get the site set up now.