While there have been calls to limit travel for Thanksgiving this year due to the surge in coronavirus cases, Americans don’t seem to be heeding them. On Sunday the TSA screened 1,047,934 passengers, the highest number since March 16, 2020. This just barely exceeded the previous peak, which occurred (oddly) on October 18, the first day with over a million people traveling.

I’d expected that this past weekend might be the busiest travel weekend since the pandemic started, and the numbers show exactly that. With many people being able to work flexibly and/or have lots of paid time off stored up (like yours truly), taking the whole Thanksgiving week seems like a fine idea to many.

Pre-Thanksgiving Travel Numbers: New Peak

Over Friday through Sunday this past weekend, the TSA screened a grand total of 3,052,159 passengers. This is by far the busiest three-day window that U.S. air travel has experienced. It’s also likely that travel this whole week is elevated, as the day before Thanksgiving is often one of the busiest travel days each year.

Comparing the travel rates to those in 2019, Friday saw 40% of last-year’s throughput, while Saturday and Sunday both saw 45%. No day in 2020 has yet cracked the 50%-mark when compared to the previous year, although I would not be surprised if that finally happens this week.

The chart shows how things have progressed since the pandemic. The blue is the daily TSA screening throughput, and the orange is a rolling 7-day-average.


Final Thoughts

With cases and hospitalizations soaring, it’s no wonder that there are calls for people to stay home for Thanksgiving this year. The CDC has released guidelines for celebrating the holiday, which includes the typical measures of mask-wearing, hand-washing, and social-distancing. California’s governor has also released guidelines for Thanksgiving for those in my home state. There is also a curfew in effect through December 21 in some counties that is being heavily protested. After a tough year, I totally understand people wanting to get together for the holidays. Personally, I have a generally libertarian philosophy and am not against people doing what they’d like, especially in terms of travel and gatherings. Just understand that there are risks.