The Transportation Security Administration said more than 1 million people passed through U.S. airport security checkpoints on Friday and Saturday, despite projections that holiday travel is expected to decline to its lowest levels since 2002 amid concerns over surging COVID-19 cases, according to AAA Northeast.
The travel-based nonprofit projects that 84.5 million Americans plan a holiday trip in 2020 — 34 million, or 29%, fewer than in 2019, the largest one-year decline on record.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that "postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19," many seem to be ignoring the message.
Roughly 1.07 million people passed through airport checkpoints Friday and Saturday, according to the TSA. It was the first time U.S. airports screened more than 1 million passengers since Nov. 29.
Despite the recent surge at airports, air travel is expected to drop by nearly 60% during the 2020 holiday season, with just 2.9 million Americans taking to the skies compared to 7.3 million last year, AAA said.
"The year-end holiday usually sees lots of vacation trips compared to Thanksgiving’s family focused travel," said Robert Sinclair Jr., spokesman for AAA Northeast.
An estimated 81.1 million travelers will move throughout the country by automobile this holiday season — defined as Dec. 23 to Jan. 3 — nearly 27 million fewer than last year or a decline of 24.9%, according to AAA.
The share of automobile trips as compared to other forms of travel, however, will rise from 91% to 96% as shorter car trips are expected to replace holiday vacations, AAA said.
Cheap gasoline should also help those who plan to take drives this holiday season.
The average gas price nationwide, at $2.12 per gallon, is nearly 50 cents per gallon cheaper than in 2019 when the price was $2.60 per gallon, according to IHS Markit, a data analysis company.
Travel by train, bus or cruise ship will fall a combined 87.7% from 3.89 million to about 480,000, the lowest number in those categories in the 20-year history of AAA travel projections.