US Airport 1
After a long hiatus of empty airports, US travellers are making a return. And not paying enough attention against traveling ahead of Thanksgiving. Image Credit: Reuters

New York: More than 1 million people flew through US domestic airports on Friday, 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. Since passenger counts plummeted from mid-March, only October 18 had more people boarding flights. Friday's total was well above the one-week average of 829,000 passengers a day.

Bucks the trend

The increase came in spite of recent warnings from carriers, including American Airlines Group Inc., United Airlines Holdings Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co., 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 Centers 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. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recommended that people "think twice" about traveling over the holidays.

Clamour to stay put

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, said Saturday on Twitter.