Thanksgiving week air travel is expected to remain strong enough to set a pandemic-era record despite urging from federal health officials to spend the holiday at home.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Americans to not travel for Thanksgiving last week — but that didn’t stop more than 1 million travelers from passing through US airport security on Sunday and more than 900,000 on Tuesday, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
Since the CDC issued that warning, nearly 5 million people have boarded airplanes. The agency receives passenger information from the airlines as part of its screening responsibilities, and the data does not show widespread cancellations in recent days, TSA spokesman Andy Post said.
From September to October, the number of scheduled available seats departing US airports was down nearly 50% compared to the same timeframe last year. Due to increased demand, that number is only down 39% for the Thanksgiving holiday period, according to Airlines for America, a trade association that represents major North American airlines.
Still, officials still expect Sunday — when everyone heads home from their holiday travels — to be the busiest day of travel since the pandemic began.
While the number of travelers passing through airport security on Sunday is concerning, many Americans are heeding the warnings from officials and health experts. Sixty-one percent of Americans said they changed their Thanksgiving plans, according to a poll released on Tuesday by Axios-Ipsos. More surprising is that nearly one in 10 Americans that were polled say they do not plan to celebrate the holiday at all.
The country added 172,935 new Covid-19 cases and had 2,146 reported deaths on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Tuesday also marks the fifth highest single day for new cases during the pandemic, and the US has posted over 100,000 new coronavirus cases for the 22nd consecutive day. The US is now averaging 174,225 new cases per day, which is up 11% from last week.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the percentage of available seats departing US airports. It is down 50% compared to the same timeframe last year.