TSA Passengers Eclipse 1 Million Ahead of the Thanksgiving Rush

Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve written several times about the daily number of passengers transiting domestically though TSA check points and compared the numbers to the daily amount of passengers that were traveling domestically the previous year (2019).

In mid-April we saw the number of daily passengers passing through TSA check points bottom out at ~87,534 passengers in a single day. However, we have seen a steady increase in flyers week after week despite increasing COVID cases throughout the United States. Are we on the second or third wave?

Anyway, given the increase in cases domestically, college campuses shuttering, and US states returning to previous restriction levels. Would this affect the number of flying passengers?


TSA’s Public Affairs spokesperson, Lisa Farbstein, updates her Twitter account (@tsamedia_lisaf) every day with a lot of interesting articles and data. But perhaps the most interesting data she shares is on how many people are passing through TSA checkpoints.

Note: TSA also updates these numbers on their website every morning at 9AM. If you don’t have twitter, you can see the numbers HERE.

In addition to the current daily numbers, she provides a comparison of how many people passed through TSA checkpoints during the same date the previous year.

Interestingly, the total number of passengers passing through TSA domestic checkpoints have fluctuated wildly between ~500,000 and ~900,000 depending on the day of the week but yesterday, the total number of passengers surpassed 1 million.

Let’s take a look at the numbers over the past 4 days…

DATE20202019% of passengers
flying (2020 vs 2019)

This is only the second time the total number of passengers have surpassed the 1 million mark since early March 2020.

  • 10/18/2020: 1,031,505 passengers

In video at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport shared by local reporter Max Gorden, large crowds of (mostly masked) passengers have already formed as they depart for various parts of the country despite the CDC recommending people cancel their Thanksgiving travel plans.


Personally, I find the ~1 MILLION daily passengers transiting TSA checkpoints to be fascinating (and surprising).

Although ~1,000,000 is far below the total number of passengers airlines were seeing a year ago, I think it’s fair to say that nearly 40% of passengers have returned. This is despite cases of COVID-19 steadily increasing in every state, several US states adding quarantine lists, many airlines not blocking middle seats, thousands of TSA agents testing positive for the virus, college campuses shuttering, sport games being cancelled, scientific studies proving that reinfection does occur, and several current US administrators having contracting it.

Perhaps even more interesting is that we are seeing 1 million passengers days BEFORE the busiest travel day of the year (the day before Thanksgiving). Does this mean we’ll see numbers approach 1,500,000…or more?

Are you planning to travel for Thanksgiving? How are you determining when it’s the right time to travel? Are you surprised by these numbers? Do you feel it’s “safe” to travel? Have you flown recently or plan to fly again soon?

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