US air travellers surge over 1 million in holiday-season uptick despite Covid-19 warnings

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NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – More than 1 million people flew through US domestic airports on Friday (Nov 20), the second-highest daily total since the coronavirus pandemic hit last spring, even as officials warn against travel around the Thanksgiving holiday.

Airline passengers still lag substantially behind normal levels, but data posted by the Transportation Security Administration show that at least some people are bucking suggestions they stay home in light of the rapid growth in Covid-19 infections.

A total of 1,019,836 people passed through US airport security screening portals on Friday, 40 per cent of the nearly 2.6 million who flew on the equivalent day last year, according to TSA data.

Since passenger counts plummeted from mid-March, only Oct 18 had more people boarding flights. Friday’s total was well above the one-week average of 829,000 passengers a day.

The increase came in spite of recent warnings from carriers, including American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, about softening holiday travel demand. The period around Thanksgiving is traditionally one of the busiest for travel.

“There has been a deceleration in system bookings and an uptick in cancellations as a result of the recent spike in Covid-19 cases,” United said in a regulatory filing.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday urged people not to travel for Thanksgiving, which is Thursday, and to limit gatherings to those in the same household.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recommended that people “think twice” about travelling over the holidays.

Various governors have echoed the call to restrict gatherings for the popular holiday, while not necessarily issuing formal guidance.

“Think about those you love and what you would do to protect them. It’s up to each and every one of us to be responsible and prevent the spread of Covid this holiday season,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said Saturday on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Republican and Democratic governors from several Midwestern states issued a joint video urging people to stay home for Thanksgiving, according to the Associated Press.

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