Americans traveled by air over Thanksgiving, despite COVID health warnings

Research undertaken by travel analytics firm ForwardKeys correctly forecast that Americans would return to the skies over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse in aviation.

The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 1 million airline passengers on four individual days during the Thanks-giving holiday travel period, which began Friday, Nov. 20 and ended on Sunday, Nov. 29.

U.S. air traffic on Thanksgiving eve was the highest of any day since March, according to the TSA.

On Nov. 25, 1,070,967 people passed TSA checkpoints, said the agency. The last time that many people traveled by air was March 16, when 1,257,823 people passed TSA checkpoints.

About 9.5 million passengers were screened by TSA over the full 10-day period.

With COVID-19 numbers ravaging large parts of the country, medical officials warn that this return to travel may presage a huge upsurge in new cases. Nationwide in the U.S., COVID-19 infections are at their peak, with an average of 193,863 new cases reported each day over the past week, reports Reuters, and health officials warn that the worst is yet to come.

Many Americans appear to have planned last-minute travel over the holiday.

Olivier Ponti, VP Insights at ForwardKeys says that the pace of bookings decreased during the three weeks before the holiday, but that Christmas and Thanksgiving bookings have not slowed down and are stronger than they were for the rest of the year.

Flight tickets issued in the week of November 8 for travel over the Thanksgiving period (departures from Nov. 19-25) surged to 74.5% of last year’s volumes, reports ForwardKeys. Ponti added that domestic Thanksgiving bookings were 91% of total bookings this year, compared to 79% last year.