TSA screening numbers are up, but TPG readers are staying home or hitting the road instead

May 25, 2020

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Memorial Day weekend has long been considered the unofficial start of the summer. To celebrate the first long weekend, Americans typically celebrate with getaways both near and far. While this years plans looked different for most, TSA screening numbers surpassed 300,000 passengers for the first time since March 23, showing that air travel is gradually picking back up ahead of the summer season.

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These numbers were reported right before the weekend kicked off with 318,449 passengers on Thursday, March 21 and 348,673 passengers on Friday, March 22. In 2019, TSA screened 8x that with an average of 2.7 million passengers screened prior to the holiday weekend.

At this time, all 50 states are in some sort of re-opening. Some have hit the ground running, like Florida and Georgia, while others are taking it slow and steady, like Hawaii and Maine. With that, Americans across the nation are approaching the situation at their own pace. In a recent TPG special report, we found that nearly a third of travelers polled would, in fact, be comfortable with the idea of a summer vacation.

But they weren’t necessarily sold on the idea of flying, with just one in five respondents sharing that they would consider a domestic flight this summer. To get a better idea of what travel looked like this past weekend, we polled the TPG Lounge and TPG Women. Here’s what TPG readers were up to this weekend.

Related reading: How coronavirus could change the future of travel

More than a thousand readers responded to our poll, with a majority of them said they did not travel this weekend and instead, stayed at home.

“We’re avoiding travel until health officials declare that it’s safe.” said Vlada R.

Many TPG readers had plans that were scratched due to coronavirus, Elizabeth H. said, “we made the best of it [Memorial Day weekend] at home.”

People visit Clearwater Beach on May 20, 2020 in Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
People visit Clearwater Beach on May 20, 2020 in Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

While some readers chose to stay home, they still couldn’t manage to escape the crowds. “I live in Clearwater Beach and everyone has come here because Florida is open and everyone acts like nothing happened. No one wears masks. The police make sure everyone on the beach spreads out, but the sidewalks are another story.” said Kayte R.

For those that did travel, the preferred mode of transportation was by far driving. This was reflected in TPG’s special report as well, where nearly half of the respondents said that they would consider in-state or out-of-state road trips this summer versus flying or public transit.

Related: 10 tips for anyone taking a road trip right now

Although driving is the preferred transport method, road trippers are still being cautious and trying to avoid any unnecessary contact by limiting stops and bringing food items with them.

(Photo by Jean-Baptiste Debourle/EyeEm/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jean-Baptiste Debourle/EyeEm/Getty Images)

“We drove to our families cabin in Northern Michigan. Still keeping our distance from others and brought nearly everything we needed with us.” said Amy S.

For the first time in 20 years, AAA didn’t release its annual Memorial Day weekend forecast. However, Paula Twiadale, senior vice president of AAA travel said, “With social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low.”

Many TPG readers echoed this sentiment, sharing that highways were in good shape and traffic was light.

Related: What it’s like to fly in the U.S. right now

And while a majority of TPG readers said that they stayed home this year, readers who did fly had mixed experiences.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Ashley R., who had to take a last-minute cross-country trip for a family emergency said, “Decreased flight routes forced me into requiring layovers instead of being able to go nonstop from SEA to IAD on United. Currently on a layover at DEN and it’s a ghost town. What’s most striking to me is that travelers are actually following rules and listening to instructions from gate agents about modified boarding procedures and flight attendants about deplaning in an orderly fashion.”

Other readers, however, had more crowded experiences. “I’m at Salt Lake City airport right now and it’s pre-COVID packed…” said Christopher T.

“I flew American Manchester-Boston (MHT) to Charlotte (CLT) and then on to Palm Beach (PBI). Both flights were entirely full. On the first leg, first class was empty but no one was moved up there to help with distancing. I had to gate check my bag on both legs as well.” said Kayla J., “I was traveling because I had to help family move, but I heard many people say they were coming to Florida because it was mostly open and they wanted a vacation.”

Bottom line

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything, from our daily lives to the way we think about travel. Memorial Day weekend typically sees record numbers of travelers, but those records look different these days. While it’s exciting to see air traffic pick back up, it’s not nearly close to what it used to be and it won’t be for a while. This will be the summer of road trips, national park getaways and beach weekends — and even if it’s not the summer vacation you planned, a meaningful trip doesn’t have to be off the table completely.

The decision to travel is a personal one that forces travelers to take into consideration their personal risk threshold, health and other factors, such as local and national restrictions and entry policies.

Featured photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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