MIAMI – According to the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA), 2.45 million airline passengers were screened on Sunday, the biggest number of daily travelers since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the world.

This was the biggest total for a single day since mid-February 2020. The transport agency added that the volume for the 10-day Thanksgiving travel period was 20.9 million, which was around 89% of pre-pandemic levels and more than twice the volume in 2020.

Reuters reports that despite concerns that the surge in demand would overburden the system, air travel in the US remained surprisingly smooth over the holiday season, thanks in part to excellent weather.

Disregarding the weather factor, the number shared by the TSA gives us a glimpse of what’s to come for air travel during the Christmas holidays.

Salt Lake City International Airport had a good number this weekend with all the big Mormon families traveling for the holiday. Photo: Michael Rodeback/Airways

Quelled Staffing and Restriction Concerns

To deal with the increased number of travelers, US airlines have been rushing to add additional staff and flights, offering bonuses and other incentives to present employees.

Airlines are also concerned about new travel restrictions imposed by the US on eight southern African countries in effect on Monday. The entry ban excludes practically all foreign nationals in response to a new COVID-19 variation, and are fearful that these restrictions will spread to other routes with heavier traffic.

The Biden administration relaxed travel restrictions for fully vaccinated air travelers from 33 countries, including China, Brazil, and much of Europe, on November 8.

According to Airlines for America, the industry trade association, US airline passenger volumes were 10% lower than pre-pandemic levels in the week ending November 14, with domestic air travel down 8% and foreign travel down 25%.

Stay tuned to Airways for two Thanksgiving trip reports, one domestic in the US and one recounting an international trip.

Featured image: Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport this Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Photo: Kendrick Dlima/Airways