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Austinites, like Americans, fail to heed CDC warning on avoiding Thanksgiving travel

America’s airports were the busiest in months over the weekend after the nation’s top health agency urged people not to travel because of coronavirus concerns.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austinites are following the trend of Americans across the country, avoiding the CDC’s warning to not travel for Thanksgiving.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport recorded its busiest days since March over the weekend, with nearly 63,000 flyers going through between Friday through Wednesday.

AUS screened 62,488 during the six-day stretch from Nov. 20 to Nov. 25, three days of which were among the busiest individually since the pandemic started.

  • Friday, Nov. 20: 10,657, the sixth busiest air travel day of the pandemic locally
  • Saturday, Nov. 21: 10,549, the seventh busiest air travel day of the pandemic locally
  • Sunday, Nov. 22: 10,738, the fourth busiest air travel day of the pandemic locally
  • Monday, Nov. 23: 9,813 flyers screened
  • Tuesday, Nov. 24: 9,888 flyers screened
  • Wednesday, Nov. 25: 10,843 screened, the third busiest air travel day of the pandemic locally 

On Sunday, Nov 29, Austin's airport projected 12,127 outbound passengers, but ended up screening 12,248 travelers making it the most-traveled day of the entire pandemic.  

Sunday, Nov. 8, was the second busiest at the airport so far during the pandemic when 11,006 flyers were screened. The fifth-busiest day was on Nov. 15 when 10,729 flyers passed through.

Nationwide, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened more than 3 million flyers Friday through Sunday, with Friday and Sunday being in the top three busiest since the pandemic started.

AAA forecasts that 151,000 Texans and 2.4 million Americans will travel for Thanksgiving, but that’s only between the dates of Nov. 25 and 29. In Texas, that’s about a 45% drop compared to last year.

“Travel is a personal choice, and the decision to do that is personal,” said Daniel Armbruster, spokesperson for AAA Texas. “It's up to every individual how much of a risk they are willing to take.”

The surge in travelers comes after the CDC urged Americans to stay home, indicating that travel could lead to getting or spreading COVID-19.

As more people are flying, the TSA at Austin’s airport is working to make sure everyone’s journey is smoother.

The agency reminds travelers to wear a mask, social distance in line, and continue to arrive at the airport early. TSA also recommends enrolling in PreCheck to help the screening process go quicker and have less contact with other flyers.

Prohibited items – including bowie knives, bowling pins and tasers – are still not allowed. If you’re packing for a Thanksgiving feast, there are also rules to remember.

“If you’re bringing your cranberry sauce, your turkey, turkey is fine to bring through the checkpoint. Cranberry sauce – anything that pours, anything that spreads – has to be less than 3.4 ounces,” said Christy Torres, a TSA supervisor at Austin’s airport.

TSA has also ramped up COVID-cautious measures, like wearing face shields and adding plexiglass to separate travelers from screening agents.

RELATED: Are Austinites ready to fly again? Here’s what an Austin airport survey shows

There’s also a new piece of technology that’s helping protect travelers from potential COVID-19 exposure. The CAT machine, short for credential authentication technology, might be new at Austin’s airport since the last time you flew. A flyer’s ID is all that’s needed as their ticket through security.

“We’re trying to reduce as much direct interaction and that ID checks for that boarding pass and lets you get on through to your flight,” Torres said.


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