U.S. air travel spiked over Thanksgiving weekend despite CDC guidance to stay home

November 30, 2020, 6:05 PM UTC

U.S. air travelers rose to the most in more than eight months as flyers brushed aside the advice of public health officials to avoid trips around the Thanksgiving holiday.

Passengers at domestic airport checkpoints totaled 1,176,091 on Sunday, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration said Monday. That’s the most since March, when the coronavirus pandemic gutted travel demand.

The uptick in airline travel came even as public health officials and state leaders urged people to stay home and limit holiday gatherings to prevent a further surge in COVID-19 cases. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, before the holiday said that people should “think twice” about traveling.

Despite the increase, Sunday’s passenger total was only 41% of last year’s level. Before the holiday week, travelers in November had been at about 35% of 2019 levels.

American Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines had warned before Thanksgiving that bookings were softening with news of growing infections, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19.

A Standard & Poor’s index of major U.S. airlines fell 1.8% at 11:21 a.m., paced by American’s 4.3% drop to $14.33.

Driving was also off last week, with U.S. gasoline demand falling more than 25% compared with year-earlier levels, according to GasBuddy.