Thanksgiving air travel hits near pre-pandemic level: TSA

Thanksgiving travelers flocked to the air this week ahead of the holiday — with the number of air travelers screened by the Transportation Security Administration nearly matching that of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic hit. 

The TSA said in a tweet Thursday that it screened roughly 2.3 million travelers at US airports on Wednesday, which is about 88 percent of the traffic recorded on the day before Thanksgiving in 2019. 

The airports were similarly packed on Tuesday, with more than 2.2 million passengers taking to the skies, the agency said in another tweet. That figure is equal to about 91 percent of the traffic recorded on the corresponding day in 2019. 

Travelers make their way through TSA security at Denver International Airport the day before Thanksgiving on November 24, 2021 in Denver, Colorado.
Travelers make their way through security at Denver International Airport on Nov. 24, 2021.
RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Speaking to CNN, TSA chief David Pekoske said the agency’s focus is to ensure all travelers are safe amid the surge in plane ridership. 

“We’ve looked at passenger volume projections, we’ve worked with the carriers and with the airports, and collectively we’re ready for the Thanksgiving holiday,” Pekoske said. “Our goal is to make it as safe and secure and as enjoyable for people as we possibly can.”

On Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he was directing federal prosecutors to prioritize cases involving unruly airline passengers after a string of high-profile disturbances on planes in recent months. 

Passengers deplane from an airplane after landing at the Albuquerque International Sunport on November 24, 2021 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Passengers deplane at Albuquerque International Sunport on Nov. 24, 2021.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

In a memo, Garland said the violent conduct that’s become common among air travelers endangers everyone aboard a flight. 

“Passengers who assault, intimidate or threaten violence against flight crews and flight attendants do more than harm those employees; they prevent the performance of critical duties that help ensure safe air travel,” Garland said in the memo.

“Similarly, when passengers commit violent acts against other passengers in the close confines of a commercial aircraft, the conduct endangers everyone aboard,” he added.