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U.S. Air Travel Reached Post-March Peak on day Before Christmas Eve

Ting Shen / Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

TSA data showed that 1,191,123 travelers passed through airport checkpoints nationwide Wednesday, the most since March 16, when more than 1.2 million people got on planes as the coronavirus was first taking hold in the United States.

Posted: Dec 24, 2020 8:24 PM

NBC News - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised Americans to stay home this holiday season. But the day before Christmas Eve, more than 1.1 million people boarded airplanes — the most since March, according to data compiled by the Transportation Security Administration.

TSA data showed that 1,191,123 travelers passed through airport checkpoints nationwide Wednesday, the most since March 16, when more than 1.2 million people got on planes as the coronavirus was first taking hold in the United States.

The recent trend lines suggest that some Americans are not following CDC advisories. From Friday to Sunday, a combined 3.2 million people boarded planes, according to agency data — more than 1 million a day.

"If you choose to travel this holiday, please wear a mask," TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said in a tweet announcing the apparent rise in pandemic-era air travel.

Overall, air travel remains lower than in years past. The day before Christmas Eve last year, for example, close to 2 million people — 1,937,235 — crossed airport checkpoints, according to the TSA.

The recent rise in the number of travelers echoes a similar increase around Thanksgiving. The day before the holiday, 1,070,967 people went through TSA checkpoints. It was part of a spike in travel in the seven days leading up to Thanksgiving that sent more than 6.8 million people to airports.

In recent weeks, the CDC has encouraged Americans to reconsider holiday travel plans, highlighting the health risks associated with taking commercial transportation and gathering with groups of people outside their immediate families.

"Travel may increase your chance of spreading and getting Covid-19," the CDC says in a message on its website. "CDC continues to recommend postponing travel and staying home, as this is the best way to protect yourself and others this year."

AAA said this month that it expected most Americans to stay home instead of travel over the holidays.

In a news release Dec. 15, AAA said it expected that up to 84.5 million Americans could travel from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3 — at least 29 percent fewer than last year.

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