The Slatest

More Americans Flew This Weekend Than at Any Other Point During the Pandemic

A long line of travelers with suitcases waiting to check in stretches through the airport.
Americans on the move, virus or not. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Post-holiday air travel hit new pandemic-era highs over the weekend as Americans boarded planes and crisscrossed the country following the Christmas holiday. The spike in air travel is an ominous sign for a country that continues to be the runaway global leader in new coronavirus cases and deaths while seeing a rising number of hospitalizations—three upward national trend lines that show no sign of flattening. The holiday travel, mixing strangers on planes and in airports with family members in households at each destination, surely won’t help. The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 1,284,599 people in American airports Sunday, a new record since the coronavirus response kicked into gear in mid-March.


American airports are still roughly half as busy as they were before the virus altered daily life, but the latest holiday travel numbers show that Americans are increasingly willing to cram themselves onto planes with hundreds of others even though the virus is taking more lives and hospitalizing more Americans than ever before. Sunday was the sixth instance in the previous 10 days that the number of travelers exceeded 1 million, according to TSA.

“We very well might see a post-seasonal—in the sense of Christmas–New Year’s—surge, and as I’ve described it, a surge upon a surge,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN Sunday.