Mother’s Day spurs new COVID travel record: 1.7 million flew Friday

Nothing gets Americans on planes during a global pandemic like holidays and Mother’s Day weekend has been no exception.

On Friday, a record 1.7 million people were screened at security checkpoints, rewriting the record set just 24 hours earlier, when about 1.64 million people were screened at U.S. airports Thursday, the busiest day for air travel since March 2020, the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

The previous pandemic high for air travel was reached just four days earlier and with the Mother’s Day weekend not yet over, the record could be reset yet again over the next few days as travelers return from their trips.

Air travel has yet to return to anywhere near the typical levels seen before COVID-19 brought flights almost to a standstill. In April and May, airport crowds were down about 40% compared with the same period in 2019, according to figures from the Transportation Security Administration.

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Airline traffic began to pick up at Thanksgiving and Christmas last year and then began to register a sustained uptick in bookings around mid-February, which they attribute partly to the nation’s massive vaccine rollout. Leisure destinations such as beach towns and mountain regions have been the most popular, while cities favored by business travelers have lagged behind.

Airline stocks rose Friday, with American, Delta, United and Southwest all gaining between 2% and 3% in afternoon trading.

Contributing: Jayme Deerwester, USA TODAY

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