More than 1 million passengers passed through U.S. airports on two consecutive days ahead of Presidents' Day and Valentine's Day, the first time the Transportation Security Administration recorded such numbers since right after New Year's.
The agency screened 1,034,514 passengers on Feb. 11 and 1,151,420 passengers on Feb. 12 (the Thursday and Friday before the holiday weekend), according to TSA data. While that is far fewer people than those same days last year — each day saw more than 2 million passengers in 2020 — the bump exceeds passenger throughput on most other dates this year.
In total, the agency screened more than 4 million people over the long weekend from Thursday through Sunday.
This isn't the first time the TSA screened record numbers of passengers since the COVID-19 pandemic brought air travel to a halt. On Jan. 3, the agency saw more than 1.3 million travelers, which remains the highest number in a single day since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
It also comes as the Transportation Department revealed on Tuesday that U.S. passenger airline traffic fell 60.1% in 2020, Reuters reported — the lowest number since 1984.
American airports saw a total of 368 million passengers last year, a significant drop from 2019 when 922.6 million people passed through U.S. terminals. While domestic travel was certainly affected — it fell 58.7% — international air travel took the biggest hit with a 70.4% drop, spurred on by border closures and quarantine requirements.
Still, 2020 saw more passengers than the record low of 351.6 million in 1984.
Airlines for America, an industry trade group, estimates it will take until 2023 or 2024 for passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels, according to the wire service.
While people are still flying, the process has changed dramatically since COVID-19 started spreading throughout the world. In one major change, masks are now required on all forms of public transportation, including on airplanes and in airports.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.
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