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Airports, Including San Diego International, See Holiday Travel Surge As COVID-19 Cases Rise

Airline passengers walk around San Diego International Airport with their lug...

Photo by Guillermo Sevilla

Above: Airline passengers walk around San Diego International Airport with their luggage, Dec. 21, 2020.

With the holiday season in full swing, airports have been busier than ever since before during the pandemic.

The surge in holiday travel coincides with the highest peaks of daily COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

Over a million people have passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints in the past three days, marking the first time that has happened in the United States since mid-March.

Those travel numbers contrast with public health pleas from the Centers for Disease Control to avoid holiday travel and gatherings.

Nicole Hall, Senior Communications Specialist for San Diego International Airport, expects to see those numbers continue to rise in the days leading up to Christmas.

“We anticipate seeing as many as 20,000 passengers coming through the airport on our busiest travel days, which are December 23 and December 27," Hall said.

RELATED: Defying Warnings, Millions In The US Travel For Thanksgiving

Airport travel around Thanksgiving was the first time that U.S. security checkpoints recorded multiple days with more than one million passengers since the beginning of pandemic-related lockdowns.

Hall added the travel numbers this holiday season will likely stay high.

“The week before Christmas and the week after, through the New Year, is where we see increased passenger travel.”

Even with the uptick in those taking to the skies, San Diego International Airport has seen 73% less passengers at this time of year than normal.

Hall said airline industry experts don't expect a full turn around for airline travel anytime soon.

“The current thinking is that there is about a two year period before we return to travel. What that looks like and what happens, since the COVID situation is so fluid, we actually have no way to actually put a number on that in terms of time," Hall said.

The San Diego International Airport said travelers should have a clear understanding of state and local governments travel restrictions for wherever they are headed, including testing requirements, stay-at-home orders and quarantine mandates.

AAA projects about 85 million people will travel in the United states for the holidays between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3, mostly by car.

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Jacob Aere
Freelance Reporter and Web Producer

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a freelance reporter. In addition to covering the latest news and issues relevant to San Diego, I seek the overlooked voices of our community to tell their stories.

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