Washington: More than 2.4 million people moved through US airport security checkpoints on Sunday, the busiest day for domestic air travel since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Transportation Security Administration said on Monday (Tuesday AEDT).
The sheer volume of people flying for the Thanksgiving holiday marked a milestone for air travel as passenger counts inch closer to pre-pandemic levels. The TSA screened 20.9 million people during the 10-day travel period that ended Sunday, which is 89 per cent of levels recorded before the pandemic, according to TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.
The increase signals robust demand for end-of-the year travel as more people are eager for more in-person celebrations away from home nearly two years into the public health crisis.
The Thanksgiving travel surge was a test for airlines still struggling to rebuild operations while confronting a spike in unruly passenger behaviour.
Airlines have sought in recent months to capitalised on a growing appetite for travel as the pandemic scrambled the industry and left some carriers stretched thin.
American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines are among carriers that have stumbled, cancelling thousands of flights and leaving customers stranded at airports this summer and fall, in part because of staffing shortages.
Sunday’s busy travel day came with no major mishaps in the nation’s skies, airports and security lines, even as some travellers encountered long lines at checkpoints. Stable weather contributed to the largely smooth operations.
“The Thanksgiving holiday travel period went very smoothly, to the point that it was fairly uneventful as it relates to security screening,” Farbstein said. “We were very prepared for the larger volume and so were passengers.”