More than 2.45 million passengers passed through airports in the United States on Sunday after the Thanksgiving holiday, the most since the COVID-19 pandemic halted travel nearly two years ago.
Sunday's travel numbers were a significant increase from last year when just over 1.17 million passengers traveled through U.S. airports on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, according to the Transportation Security Administration's data. However, it was still well below the equivalent Sunday in 2019 when the TSA screened more than 2.88 million people, the highest checkpoint volume in the agency's 20-year history, TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein tweeted.
Overall, Farbstein said passenger numbers reached 20.9 million for the previous 10 days, including Sunday, coming in at about 89% of pre-pandemic levels.
While Sunday was the busiest day of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, just over 2.3 million people traveled through airports on the Wednesday before Turkey Day. The previous record for most passengers screened in a single day since the start of the pandemic was Friday, Nov. 19, when over 2.24 million travelers passed through checkpoints.
Experts predict Christmas holiday numbers could go even beyond Thanksgiving, though much remains up in the air with the emergence of the new and concerning Omicron variant. Despite opening up to vaccinated foreign travelers earlier this month, the U.S. on Monday implemented a ban on travel from South Africa along with seven other neighboring countries.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden's chief medical advisor, said it will take about two weeks to learn "more definitive information on the transmissibility, severity, and other characteristics of the variant," according to a White House statement. He told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that pandemic-era travel is "always risky" and recommended that Americans who do decide to travel get vaccinated and wear a mask on flights and in airports.
Of course, masks are required on planes and in airports since a federal transportation mask mandate was extended until at least Jan. 18, 2022.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.