TSA Expects Thanksgiving Air Travel to Rebound Nearing Pre-Pandemic Levels

MIAMI, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 03: Travelers wait in line at the TSA checkpoint in the Miami International Airport before starting the Labor Day weekend on September 03, 2021 in Miami, Florida. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people unvaccinated against the Covid-19 virus should not travel this …
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expects Thanksgiving air travel to rebound, nearing pre-pandemic levels.

“The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expects airport security checkpoints nationwide will be busy during the upcoming Thanksgiving travel period, which runs from Friday, Nov. 19, through Sunday, Nov. 28,” the agency said in a Wednesday press release, predicting “about 20 million passengers during the Thanksgiving holiday.”

Administrator David Pekoske said the agency is “prepared” for the influx. In fact, he does not seem concerned by the potential impact the vaccine mandate on TSA agents could have on staffing with the travel surge on the horizon.

“In fact, implementation of the mandate will make travel safer and healthier for everyone,” he said during an appearance on Good Morning America.

“So, we see quite a significant increase in the number of our officers that are vaccinated, and I’m very confident that there will be no impact for Thanksgiving,” he added.

In a separate statement, Pekoske reiterated that the agency expects “that travel may be very close to pre-pandemic levels this holiday.”

We have deployed technologies that enhance detection capabilities and reduce physical contact, and it’s equally important that passengers are prepared with travel tips for the most efficient checkpoint experience. With overall vaccination rates improving nationwide and greater confidence in healthy travel, there will be more people traveling so plan ahead, remain vigilant and practice kindness.

In 2019, months prior to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, TSA announced it screened a “record-breaking number” of Thanksgiving travelers. At the time, it recorded December 1, 2019, as the “busiest day ever in the 18-year history of the agency,” as roughly 2.8 million travelers passed through TSA checkpoints. From Friday, November 22, 2019, through Monday, December 2, 2019, TSA screened over 26 million passengers. 

Last year, TSA announced it screened over one million passers “on four individual days during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period” —  November 20 through November 29.  However, the overall number of travelers over the travel period was far less than the prior year — 9.5 million.

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