Airport Screenings Rebound Close To Pre-Pandemic Levels During Thanksgiving: TSA Data

November 29, 2021

By a Biometrica staffer

Around 2.31 million passengers passed through airport screenings last Wednesday, Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA). That’s over double when compared with the 1.07 million people who went through TSA checkpoints in 2020, and is reaching close to 2019’s pre-pandemic number of 2.62 million.

Wednesday was the TSA’s busiest day since travel plummeted to coronavirus lows in April 2020, NBC News said in a report on Friday, Nov. 26. “Thanksgiving has historically seen the biggest increase in the number of travelers coming through TSA security checkpoints during the year and this year is expected to see a continuation of that trend,” TSA said last week in a press release.

The Thanksgiving holiday period started on Friday, Nov. 19 and ran through Sunday, Nov. 28. TSA had already issued prior public announcements saying those who planned to travel during that period should “expect to see a very busy airport.” TSA officials had also advised travelers to wear a mask, get to the airport two hours before their scheduled flight, and be ready to go through the security screening process.

Per the TSA, the busiest travel days are typically the day before Thanksgiving and the Sunday afterward. The highest travel day in TSA’s history was the Sunday after Thanksgiving of 2019, when nearly 2.9 million individuals were screened at TSA security checkpoints nationwide. Even in its statement last week, TSA said it did not expect travel volume this year to reach pre-pandemic levels. Although, it did anticipate that it would be notably higher than what was seen in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

The organization also cautioned travelers who haven’t been traveling in the recent past of certain changes to the checkpoint screening process, and airport security and safety in general.

For example, travelers, TSA personnel and other individuals who work in the airports are required to continue to wear a mask as prescribed by the federal mask mandate when they are in airports, bus and rail stations, as well as while on passenger aircraft, public transportation, passenger railroads, and over-the-road buses operating on scheduled fixed-routes. This means that all travelers must be wearing a mask at TSA airport screening checkpoints, throughout the airport and during their flights, it said.

When it comes to the screening process, it said that when approaching the travel document checking podium, passengers will see TSA officers wearing masks and gloves. “Most will be positioned behind acrylic barriers to reduce cross contamination with passengers. TSA officers will change their gloves between each pat down and they will use a fresh swab if they need to swab a traveler’s hands or their carry-on items,” it added. It also planned to ask travelers to scan their own boarding passes to reduce a touchpoint.

TSA employees will be conducting routine cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces and security screening equipment at the checkpoints to further ensure public health and safety.