U.S. air travel hit post-March peak on day before Thanksgiving

Despite warnings from public health officials, more people in the U.S. boarded planes on the day before Thanksgiving than any day since March, part of a broader surge in travel that comes amid a significant surge of Covid-19 cases.

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According to Transportation Security Administration figures, 1,070,967 people crossed TSA checkpoints Wednesday, part of a surge in travel in the seven days leading up to Thanksgiving that brought more than 6.8 million people to airports across the country.

But overall travel remains significantly lower than years past. Wednesday’s figure is less than half as many of the 2.6 million who traveled the day before Thanksgiving in 2019.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a last-minute warning on Nov. 19 asking Americans to avoid travelling for Thanksgiving due to “exponential growth” in Covid-19 cases.

More than 1.2 million people in the U.S. contracted Covid-19 in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, close to double the 635,000-plus new cases three weeks before that. Case counts continue to be up across most of the country.

The 1.1 million travelers on Wednesday was the most passengers screened by the TSA since March 16, when 1.25 million passengers crossed its checkpoints. Similarly, the 6.8 million travelers in the week leading up to Thanksgiving were the most in any seven-day span since March 14 to March 20.

According to flight-tracking service FlightRadar24, there were more airplanes in the skies at noon Eastern the Tuesday before Thanksgiving than there were on the same Tuesday in 2018, and 8 percent fewer than in 2019.

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