TSA Sees Highest Number of Passengers Since the Start of the Pandemic Ahead of Thanksgiving

More than 8.5 million travelers flew from Thursday to Sunday.

More than 2.24 million travelers passed through airports in the United States on Friday, the most people the Transportation Security Administration has screened in a single day since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In total, more than 8.5 million travelers flew from Thursday to Sunday, including four straight days when there were more than 2 million passengers each, according to TSA data. The record number comes ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday when more than 4 million people are expected to take to the skies and experts anticipate overall travel numbers will be within 5% of what they were in 2019.

"What is it going to be like Thanksgiving week at @TSA checkpoints? Lots of travelers, much like pre-pandemic times," Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for the TSA, tweeted on Monday. "Do you remember what that was like? Crowded! Bottom line: Get to the airport early, pack some patience, wear a mask and don't have prohibited items with you!"

The last time the TSA screened this many passengers on a single day was Feb. 28, 2020, when the country saw more than 2.35 million people travel through its airports.

Travelers at the United Terminal 7 at LAX airport as people prepare to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday
Al Seib/Getty Images

The travel numbers are also significantly more than this time last year when passenger numbers topped out at just over a million people. However, it is less than Nov. 19, 2019, when more than 2.5 million people traveled through U.S. airports.

Other holidays this year have also seen noticeable bumps in airport traffic, including the Fourth of July, which saw more than 10 million passengers, and the Labor Day holiday weekend, which saw just over 9.2 million air passengers.

For those who plan to travel for Turkey Day, the TSA recommends travelers arrive at the airport early and pack smart (including knowing which Thanksgiving foods you can and can't take in a carry-on bag).

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.

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