Thanksgiving Week Airport Volume Is Surpassing Pre-Pandemic Levels For First Time

Officers from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened over 2.3 million passengers on Monday, exceeding the comparable day in 2019.

It’s a sign that passenger volume over Thanksgiving travel week is on track to exceed pre-pandemic levels for the first year since Covid-19 became a global health concern.

According to the agency’s throughput data, 2,327,284 air passengers went through airport security checkpoints yesterday. On the Monday before Thanksgiving in 2019, 2,321,546 passengers were screened.

That 5,700 difference may seem tiny in the big picture, but surpassing pre-pandemic Thanksgiving passenger volume is seen as a significant milestone in the travel industry’s continued recovery.

Historically, Wednesday and Sunday — Thanksgiving Eve and the official end of the weekend — have been the two busiest travel days over the holiday period, and they are expected to be high-volume days this year, too.

What is different now, compared to 2019, is that millions more Americans now work remotely, giving them flexibility to stretch out their time with family and friends and avoid the worst of the airport crowds and packed flights.

Sliding travel dates can pay off in other ways. Travelers who choose to return from their holiday midweek after Thanksgiving can save as much as $270 per ticket, according to travel booking app Hopper.

Airlines and airports say they are better staffed and better prepared to handle holiday crowds compared to this past summer, when tens of thousands of delayed and canceled flights spawned “airport chaos” headlines.

Meanwhile, travelers are paying significantly higher airfares than past years. According to Hopper, holiday airfares are the most expensive in five years due to a combination of factors, including jet fuel prices, thinner flight schedules and traditional holiday travel demand.

For Thanksgiving, domestic airfare costs $350 on average round-trip, up 22% compared to 2019 and 43% higher than last year. International airfares are also up 25% compared to pre-pandemic times and 41% compared to last year, averaging $795 for a round-trip.

Looking ahead to Christmas, flights are even pricier. Hopper says domestic roundtrip flights cost $463, on average, up 31% compared to 2019. International airfares will run $1,300 on average for a roundtrip flight.

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