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Millions of people traveled for the holidays, despite worsening pandemic and pleas from the CDC

Jan. 05, 2021
3 min read
Millions of people traveled for the holidays, despite worsening pandemic and pleas from the CDC
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The holiday season is officially over, but we're just getting the final numbers of how many people traveled for Christmas and the new year. And it could be weeks before we understand the ramifications of this upswing in travel.

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On Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, a new pandemic-era record was set when 1,327,289 people were screened at airport security checkpoints across the country. It's the highest volume the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has seen since March 15, 2020, when 1,519,192 people were screened — and easily surpassed the number of people who passed through TSA checkpoints the Sunday following Thanksgiving.

And even though many people returned to school and work on Monday, people are still clearly returning home from their holiday trips. On Monday, Jan. 4, TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said 1,080,346 people passed through national security checkpoints, marking the seventh of the last 10 days to exceed 1 million travelers.

About 1.19 million people passed through TSA checkpoints on Dec. 23, but the numbers predictably tapered off on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as travelers made it to their holiday destinations. Then, the numbers spiked again: 1.13 million on Saturday, Dec. 26; 1.28 million on Dec. 27; then 1.11 million on Dec. 28; 1.02 on Dec. 29 and up to 1.16 on Dec. 30, before dropping below 1 million again on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Following the holiday, on Jan. 2, 2021, 1.19 million people passed through national airport security checkpoints.

The numbers surpassed many projections. AAA, for example, predicted that just 2.94 million travelers would fly between Dec. 23, 2020, and Jan. 3, 2021.

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Of course, these numbers are nowhere near 2019 levels. This time last year, well over 2 million people were being screened almost daily at TSA checkpoints around the U.S.

Related: Flying over the holidays? Here are 12 things you need to know before taking off

But the consistently high volume of travelers is still concerning when you consider that COVID-19 cases are continuing to surge across the country, and an even more contagious strain is triggering lockdowns and flight cancellations in Europe. December was the deadliest month in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic, The Atlantic reported.

And the coming days and weeks will be a strong indicator of whether people (many of whom may have traveled for the first time since the onset of the pandemic during the holidays) will continue flying — and whether new COVID-19 cases will continue to follow the upward trajectory of TSA screenings.

Feature photo of crowds at Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA) on Dec. 18, 2020, by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images.

Featured image by AFP via Getty Images
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