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Air travel in US picks up ahead of holiday season despite Covid-19 surge

December 2, 2020

assengers at domestic airport checkpoints totaled 1,176,091 on Sunday

US air travelers rose to the most in more than eight months as flyers brushed aside the advice of public health officials to avoid trips around the Thanksgiving holiday.

Passengers at domestic airport checkpoints totaled 1,176,091 on Sunday, the US Transportation Security Administration said on Monday. That’s the most since March, when the coronavirus pandemic gutted travel demand.

The uptick in airline travel came even as public health officials and state leaders urged people to stay home and limit holiday gatherings to prevent a further surge in Covid-19 cases. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, before the holiday said that people should “think twice” about traveling.

Despite the increase, Sunday’s passenger total was only 41 per cent of last year’s level. Before the holiday week, travelers in November had been at about 35 per cent of 2019 levels.

American Airlines Group, United Airlines Holdings and Southwest Airlines had warned before Thanksgiving that bookings were softening with news of growing infections, hospitalisations and deaths due to Covid-19.

A Standard & Poor’s index of major US airlines fell 1.8 per cent at 11.21am, paced by American’s 4.3 per cent drop to $14.33.

Driving was also off last week, with US gasoline demand falling more than 25 per cent compared with year-earlier levels, according to GasBuddy.