July 5, 2021 -- The Transportation Security Administration predicted airports across the nation would see pre-pandemic travel volumes for the Independence Day weekend, and the numbers are bearing them out.
The TSA screened 2,196,411 people at airport checkpoints on Friday, July 2, more than the 2,184,253 travelers checked on that date in 2019 and the most since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. On that date in 2020, a mere 718,988 people were checked.
On Thursday, July 1, 2,147,090 travelers were screened, more than the 2,088,760 in 2019 and almost three time the 764,761 in 2020.
Some airports have already exceeded their entire 2019 travel volumes, including Nashville International Airport and Myrtle Beach International Airport, the TSA said in a news release.
Airports at other popular vacation destinations are already close to pre-pandemic levels, including, Orlando International Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
That means travelers are experiencing long waits to check bags and board planes.
“We continue to remind passengers to pack their patience and remain calm through the security checkpoint and onboard aircraft. TSA will not tolerate aggressive actions toward our officers; please help us make travel safe, secure and pleasant on this holiday weekend,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said.
The American Automobile Association expects this to be the heaviest Independence Day for road trips ever.
“An expected 43.6 million Americans will drive to their destinations, the highest on record for this holiday and 5% more than the previous record set in 2019, the AAA said in a news release.
The AAA predicted 47.7 Americans overall would travel (compared to 34.2 million in 2020 and 48.9 million in 2019), with 43.6 million going by car (compared to 32.5 million in 2020 and 41.5 million in 2019) and 3.5 million by air (compared to 1.3 million in 2020 and 3.9 million in 2019.
The increased travel will occur as the number of new COVID-10 infections creeped upward after a period of decline.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said Thursday that the 7-day average for new cases is around 12,600 cases per day, a 10% increase over a week ago.
The slowing vaccination rate coupled with the arrival of the highly transmissible delta variant may account for the increase, Walensky said.