Air travel in the U.S. is ramping up ahead of Thanksgiving, even as public health officials urged Americans to stay home for the holiday as the COVID-19 pandemic enters its darkest days.
U.S. airports handled more than 1 million people twice over the weekend heading into Thanksgiving. While those numbers are still far down from the typical holiday volume, it’s just the second and third time the U.S. has recorded 1 million travelers since travel demand collapsed in the spring.
Some travelers are certainly staying home after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week pleaded with Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving. But the number of travelers passing through airport security checkpoints recorded by the TSA show a marked uptick in travel heading into the holiday. Take a look at this interactive graphic we put together comparing TSA travel data from 2020 to 2019.
So yes, travel remains down by more than 50% compared to 2019. But it’s clear that more people are getting on planes this week than at any point. The graphic below shows a seven-day moving average of the percentage of travelers recorded in 2020 compared to the same point last year. It’s currently hitting a peak.
It’s equally obvious how much people’s holiday travel has changed due to COVID-19. The smartphone travel planning app TripIt crunched the numbers and found a drastic increase in the amount of travelers who left for a Thanksgiving trip over the weekend – suggesting the freedom to work from anywhere led people to start their trips earlier. Typically, the day before Thanksgiving is the most popular travel day.
Some travelers are certainly staying home, but this Thanksgiving week is seeing record travel numbers even as the pandemic enters its worst stretch.