More than 2 million Americans flew through US airports Sunday despite canceled flights, omicron fears
Holiday travel complicated by omicron, cancellations, but still up significantly over 2020
More than 2 million people flew through American airports on Sunday despite hundreds of canceled flights and fears about the new coronavirus omicron variant, as the 2021 holiday travel season continues to see a significant recovery from pandemic lows.
"TSA screened 2,070,554 individuals yesterday at checkpoints around the country," the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) tweeted Monday morning.
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Sunday was the third time in five days, and the seventh time since Dec. 16, that the TSA screened more than 2 million passengers in a single day. The 2.07 million passengers screened represented an approximate 83% increase from the number of travelers on the same day last year.
Still, the 2021 holiday travel season is falling short of the prepandemic 2019 benchmarks for the industry – the TSA screened 2,470,786 people on Dec. 26 two years ago.
Dec. 22 was the only day so far this month when 2021's travel numbers outstripped 2019. Christmas Day travel numbers were down nearly 1 million between 2019 and 2021.
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This year's holiday travel is also being handicapped by hundreds of flight cancellations from major U.S. airlines and fears about the new omicron variant that was discovered in South Africa last month.
"The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation. As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport," United Airlines told FOX Business on Christmas Day.
The cancellations continued to pile up Sunday, with 1,516 U.S. flights canceled, according to FlightAware. As of Monday morning, FlightAware says 763 flights at U.S. airports are already canceled – a number that may increase as the day goes on.
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Meanwhile, many state and local officials were warning Americans to either downsize their holiday gatherings or cancel them entirely.
"Please do not hold or attend holiday parties indoors, it's just too dangerous," Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said ahead of the holiday.
It appears many disregarded that advice, with TSA screening numbers rebounding significantly from 2020, but many thousands more likely had their plans disrupted with the weekend's travel woes.