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Friday was 3rd busiest day at US airports during pandemic

March 13, 2022
4 min read
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Without any Thanksgiving turkey, New Year’s ball drop or Fourth of July fireworks on the horizon, the U.S. hit a COVID-19 travel milestone. Friday was the third busiest day for passenger volume at U.S. airports during the pandemic.

According to checkpoint data released daily by TSA, agents screened 2,297,374 passengers on Friday, March 11. The rise in passenger volume comes at a time when the weather is warming, travelers are embarking on spring vacations and COVID-19 numbers are improving. Many parts of the country have seen hospitalizations drop in recent weeks, with numerous localities, states and countries loosening restrictions.

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(Photo by Lyubov Smirnova/Getty)

Nearly a pandemic record

While passenger traffic on Friday fell just short of peak pandemic volume seen on either side of Thanksgiving 2021, it far eclipsed even the heaviest volume during the 2021-22 Christmas and New Year’s holidays about a month later, when much of the country was experiencing a surge of the omicron variant.

Related: U.S. mask mandates going away. What's next?

Friday’s passenger traffic also topped any single day seen in the summer of 2021, when travel significantly increased nationwide as millions received vaccinations. And as a single day, Friday’s volume was up 62 percent compared to the same day in 2021.

TSA agents and airport officials alike were noticing increased volume even prior to Friday. In North Carolina, for instance, Raleigh-Durham International Airport shared on social media that two of its parking lots were at capacity.

In a social media post Thursday, the TSA’s Pacific region spokesperson pointed to current passenger volume being 86% of 2019 levels, adding “this consistency is further proof that the country is getting back to traveling by air after a near 2-year slowdown.”

Numbers point to continued travel surge

By all accounts, the recent increase in airport passenger traffic is not an anomaly. It’s also not the only sign travel is on the rise.

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Last week, vacation rental site VRBO said its data indicates “the rush to book summer vacation homes is trending earlier than ever,” pointing to demand that has “further accelerated” in 2022 even after “the unprecedented early surge” in 2021.

Meanwhile, the World Travel & Tourism Council announced last month, its projections point to travel in 2022 exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 6.2%. The organization anticipates U.S. domestic travel and tourism spending to reach $1.1 trillion for the year, surpassing pre-pandemic levels by more than 11%.

“We expect a welcome release of pent up travel & tourism demand,” president & CEO Julia Simpson said in a statement.

Related: Renting a car in 2022

Bottom line

It’s fair to say Friday was a ‘non-holiday’ pandemic air travel record. Plenty of signs point to it being an indication of what is to come as travelers feel more comfortable venturing out.

As demand surges, TPG recommends those planning a trip consider booking sooner rather than later. It’s also a good idea to take a look at what points and miles you may have accrued over the last couple years, and consider using them if you find a deal that gets you good value for your hard-earned points.

Featured image by SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more