Thanksgiving travelers flood airports despite warnings

Shutterstock / Leonard Zhukovsky

Around 5 million passengers, a record number since the start of the pandemic, traveled through  airports in the US despite the government’s warnings against it.

Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on November 26, is traditionally a big family gathering celebration. Despite the risk of COVID-19, Americans were traveling across the country to meet their family and relatives. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported that around 3 million people passed TSA security checkpoints during the weekend of November 20-22, 2020. A further 1.8 million passengers were present at various US airports the following two days 

On November 19, 2020, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly advised Americans not to travel during the holiday to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus as infection cases spiked around the United States.

At least 2,203 new coronavirus deaths and 176,439 new cases were reported in the United States on November 24, 2020. The daily average of cases increased by 42% in the last two weeks, reported the New York Times.

However, some people reconsidered the ritual of family gatherings and decided to stay home. The number of passengers this year was still around 50% of the usual traffic during the Thanksgiving travel craze.

US airline executives said they have seen a rise in cancellations, in addition slower bookings as the number of COVID-19 cases has risen. Southwest Airlines Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly said he still expected an increase in bookings in November due to the holidays. Nevertheless, he remains critical about the winter months ahead. 

“I’m not really optimistic that the first quarter is going to improve much from the current levels of demand,” said Kelly on November 19, 2020. “It will be winter time, and we’ve already seen seasonally the uptick in the cases, and that’s concerning.”

According to Skyscanner, travel bookings have increased since the announcements of successful Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccine trials. 

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