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TSA reporting highest passenger numbers since the pandemic emptied skies in March

Nov. 22, 2020
3 min read
TSA reporting highest passenger numbers since the pandemic emptied skies in March
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On Thursday, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) pleaded with Americans to avoid travel this Thanksgiving holiday, citing the rapidly rising COVID-19 cases. But are people listening?

Early travel data says no. Nearly three million people just took to the skies on Thursday, Friday and Saturday combined, according to Transporation Security Administration (TSA) security checkpoint numbers.

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That’s still less than half of the number of passengers who flew in the days leading up to Thanksgiving in 2019. But nonetheless, it’s the strongest three days since the pandemic emptied out American skies back in March.

With COVID-19 cases climbing in every part of the country, the CDC last week issued a dramatic warning: Stay home for Thanksgiving.

On Thursday, Nov. 19 — just one week before Thanksgiving — the incident manager for the CDC's COVID-19 response, Dr. Henry Walke, told reporters that "the CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving holiday."

Walke continued to note that "we are all excited about the news regarding a vaccine, but it's not here yet... when there are hard decisions to be made, we all must do our best to protect those around us."

Related: CDC recommends staying home for the holidays — Here’s what to do if you may cancel your travel plans

Those "hard decisions" include shelving Thanksgiving travel plans, according to the CDC.

Though early travel data shows that people may not necessarily be listening to the guidelines, the airlines are painting a different picture.

Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines have all seen the rising COVID-19 case counts hit bookings and, at least for some, increase cancellations.

“We’ve seen a dampening of demand. It really is too soon to tell how deep and how long,” American president Robert Isom said at the Skift Aviation Forum on Nov. 19. His recommendation for Thanksgiving travelers was to follow CDC guidance — though he did not acknowledge the public health organization’s stay-at-home advice.

That same day in an investor update, United attributed a “deceleration in system bookings and an uptick in cancellations” directly to the spike in new COVID-19 cases.

Related: A complete list of airline coronavirus change and cancellation policies

Though bookings may indeed be slowing, perhaps the CDC's warning was too late to affect Thanksgiving travel plans.

With many working from home and possibly wanting to build in a quarantine buffer before visiting at-risk family or friends, location agnostic and cautious travelers alike could potentially be leaving earlier for this year's Thanksgiving holiday, avoiding the usual mid-week "rush".

While every major U.S. airline allows travelers to change or cancel flights without fees, for many, it's likely too late to change plans. With the holiday week already here, making new plans on such short notice is likely too burdensome for many.

Despite the CDC's warning, Thanksgiving is shaping up to be the busiest travel week since March.

Additional reporting Ned Russell.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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Best starter travel card
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

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • 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.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases