After air travel broke a pandemic record on Wednesday, the TSA says it screened 846,520 people at airports nationwide on Thursday.
The Christmas Eve figure does not signal the end of the holiday travel rush, but rather a lull before people who left town for the Friday holiday begin coming home. TSA numbers show that in the last week, 7,189,521 people were screened at TSA checkpoints.
Christmas Eve follows six straight days of US air travel numbers near or more than a million passengers. On Wednesday, 1,191,123 travelers set a record of the pandemic. The number of people who flew on Christmas Eve is a third of the same day a year ago when more than 2.5 million people flew.
The depressed travel numbers forced US airlines to lay off tens of thousands of employees in the fall. But executives from United (UAL) and American Airlines (AAL) announced plans Tuesday to bring back thousands of their furloughed workers in response to Congress passing its latest Covid-19 relief bill.
The new law includes an extension of the airline industry’s Payroll Support Program, which sets aside $15 billion in assistance to bring back more than 32,000 United and American Airlines employees who were furloughed in September. The companies say the additional funds are enough to pay those workers through March 31.
Still, the Centers for Disease Control has recently ratcheted up its push to keep passengers home.
“Travel can increase your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19,” it said. “Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.”
Prior to Wednesday, the previous pandemic record was set the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
The increase in air travel is stoking new fears from health the experts that there will be another spike in coronavirus infections, similar to a spike recorded after Thanksgiving.
— CNN Business’ Chauncey Alcorn contributed to this report