Passenger numbers surge to pandemic-level highs for Thanksgiving travel

Nov 30, 2020

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Travel warnings and a surge in coronavirus cases proved no match for pandemic-weary Americans fatigued of lockdowns and quarantines.

The number of travelers at U.S. airports hit pandemic-era highs around Thanksgiving as passengers took to the skies despite pleas from the Centers for Disease Control and other U.S. leaders to limit holiday gatherings.

Nearly 1.18 million people were screened Sunday at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints, the highest total since travel cratered in March at the outset of the pandemic. And Sunday’s record topped the previous pandemic-era record of 1,070,967 set just four days prior.

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Those numbers are still down nearly 60% compared to the same period last year, when nearly 2.9 million passengers were screened on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

But this year’s totals do follow a typical trend for Thanksgiving that sees passenger numbers spike on the Wednesday before and Sunday after the Thursday holiday.

Below are the 10 busiest days since March 16 as determined by the number of travelers screened by the TSA.

More: The COVID surge is hitting airlines, and maybe the holidays too

  1. March 16 (Thursday): 1,257,823 travelers screened
  2. Nov. 29 (Sunday): 1,176,091
  3. Nov. 25 (Wednesday): 1,070,967
  4. Nov. 22 (Sunday): 1,047,934
  5. Oct. 18 (Sunday): 1,031,505
  6. Nov. 20 (Friday): 1,019,836
  7. Nov. 21 (Saturday): 984,369
  8. Oct. 11 (Sunday): 984,234
  9. Oct. 25 (Sunday): 983,745
  10. Nov. 15 (Sunday): 978,279

Featured photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

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