Christmas Eve travel rebounds from 2020 COVID lows, number doubles despite Omicron fears
Friday TSA screenings were below 2019 level, but Thursday screenings were higher
Christmas Eve air travel this year bounced back from its pandemic lows, with more than 1.7 million people passing through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints Friday – but it was slightly off its pre-pandemic highs in 2019.
"TSA screened 1,709,601 individuals yesterday at checkpoints around the country," the agency tweeted Saturday morning.
That number is much higher than the 846,520 people the agency screened on Dec. 24, 2020. But it's more than 800,000 fewer people than the TSA screened on the same day in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.
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Notably, the number of people who flew from U.S. airports on Thursday, Dec. 23, was higher than the 2019 number for the same day. Nearly 2.2 million people flew Thursday compared to more than 1.9 million in 2019. But generally, there are fewer holiday air travelers in 2021 compared to 2019, according to TSA numbers.
The rebound from 2020 lows, however, does indicate Americans are generally shrugging off the dangers of the new omicron coronavirus variant and traveling to see their families anyway. TSA screening numbers both Thursday and Friday were more than double the total for the corresponding day last year.
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This is despite dire warnings from state and local officials about the omicron variant, even going so far as to tell people not to hold holiday gatherings or to shun their unvaccinated relatives.
"Please do not hold or attend holiday parties indoors, it's just too dangerous," Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said last week.
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"With the holiday season quickly approaching, many people are planning to gather with loved ones to celebrate. The Milwaukee Health Department urges those who are gathering to do so safely. This means gathering with only fully vaccinated friends and family," the Milwaukee Health Department says in its Christmas guidance.
If the virus isn't significantly damaging Americans' will to travel, it is having an effect on the flights themselves. Delta and United Airlines this week canceled flights across the country because of "an increase in COVID cases limiting crew availability."
FOX Business' Adam Sabes contributed to this report.