TSA filters record travelers Wednesday before Thanksgiving
A new record has been set for the highest volume of travelers scanned at national airport security checkpoints after the pandemic. On Wednesday, the Transportation Security Agency or TSA scanned 1,070,967 travelers, marking the busiest day for air travel since the pandemic gripped the economy and shattered passenger volumes.
Wednesday’s traffic volume is much lower than what TSA saw on the same day in 2019. Compared to 365 days earlier, November 25 was only about 41% of year-over-year volume. . According to CBS News, the volume also accounts for 41% of the traffic seen the day before Thanksgiving last year.
The record-breaking day also continues a streak of relatively heavy traffic days seen at airport checkpoints across the country. When the pandemic initially spread across the country in March, passenger volume fell from around 2 million passengers per day to a low of around 80,000. Since then, the daily volume has slowly increased by a few percent each week with typical peaks around Memorial Day and Labor Day – but just two days before this week, volumes topped 1 million passengers.
Last Friday, Sunday and Wednesday, everyone saw traffic volumes once again exceed the 1 million passenger mark. Sunday’s travel volume broke a record for air travel since the start of the pandemic with 1,047,934 passengers screened; On Wednesday, the record was broken again.
Considering the number of travelers who typically hit the road for the Thanksgiving vacation and the growing recovery in the travel industry, none of these records come as a surprise. Prior to Thanksgiving week, checkpoint volumes already regularly exceeded 900,000 travelers each day, and additional demand from family travelers easily pushed volumes into record territory.
Perhaps more surprising is the fact that the travel volumes are not greater. The CDC’s stern advice advising Americans to reconsider Thanksgiving travel as well as the gross volume of infections currently spreading across the country have likely worked together to keep more travelers out of the sky. SCS suggest, instead, that many of these travelers can be switched to driving.
The real test of the TSA and any guidance the CDC may have given on air travel will take place on Sunday, which is typically the heaviest travel day of the year. Last year, the TSA scanned just under 2.9 million passengers on December 1, the day after Thanksgiving. If travel volumes remain at 40% of 2019 levels, that means 1.16 million passengers will pass through the country’s airports. And until a widespread vaccine is in sight, that may be the largest number of passengers the TSA sees for some time.