TSA reporting highest passenger numbers since the pandemic emptied skies in March
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
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.
Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!
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.”
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.
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
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees