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Airlines say record number are canceling holiday flights after CDC urged people not to travel


Airlines say a record number of Americans are canceling flights after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ‘strongly’ advised against traveling for Thanksgiving during the coronavirus pandemic.

The guidance from the health agency came as the US recorded a new high for COVID-19 infections at more than 187,000 on Thursday and hospitalizations also reached never before seen levels with more than 80,000 patients.

New data from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) shows that just 907,332 people passed through checkpoints on Thursday.

That’s down from 2,428,095 who did so at the same time last year – a 62 percent drop.

An estimated 2.4 million people are still expected to fly over the busiest days, but that’s half the number that did in 2019. 

Meanwhile, the American Automobile Association (AAA) says road travel could drop to the lowest levels since the 2008 Great Recession.

However, for those who have decided to travel, photos have shown people public health guidelines and not practicing social distancing as they pack airports.

Airlines report that they are experiencing a drop in bookings and a spike in canceled reservations for the holidays as the CDC advised Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving

Airlines report that they are experiencing a drop in bookings and a spike in canceled reservations for the holidays as the CDC advised Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving

Last year, between the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after, 4.58 million people flew. In 2020, an estimated 2.4 million people are expected to fly, which would be the largest one-year decrease on record. Pictured: Travelers wait to check baggage for an American Airlines flight, November 18

Last year, between the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after, 4.58 million people flew. In 2020, an estimated 2.4 million people are expected to fly, which would be the largest one-year decrease on record. Pictured: Travelers wait to check baggage for an American Airlines flight, November 18

Photos on social media have showed people ignoring social guideline as they sit in waiting areas like this scene from Miami International Airport

Photos on social media have showed people ignoring social guideline as they sit in waiting areas like this scene from Miami International Airport 

People also ignored public health guidelines as they waited to tag their bags at Newark Liberty International Airport

People also ignored public health guidelines as they waited to tag their bags at Newark Liberty International Airport 

Prior to the CDC’s recommendations not to travel for the holidays, airline executives said they were already seeing bookings drop. 

‘Certainly with the increase in infection rates really throughout the country we’ve seen a dampening of demand,’ American Airlines President Robert Isom said during the Skift Aviation Forum on Thursday. 

‘It’s really too soon to tell how deep and how long there may be a depressed environment but we’ve seen some weakening of bookings.’

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Thursday morning, United Airlines said it has also seen a decrease in bookings and a rise in canceled reservations.

The company warned that it expected its overall revenues to be down by around 67 percent for the fourth quarter compared to last year.

Transportation industries is also anticipating the number of people for Thanksgiving via plane will be down compared to last year.

Last year, the TSA screened more than 26 million people from November 22 to December 2.

And during the busiest period, from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to the Sunday after Thanksgiving, 4.58 million people flew, according to AAA.

This year, they expect that figure over the five-day period to be slashed by half to 2.4 million travelers, which would be the largest one-year decrease on record.

However, Americans are already ignoring recommendations from public health experts as they head home.

One photo on Twitter showed no social distancing as people sat waiting for a flight at Miami International Airport.

Another one on the social platform pictured crowded lines as people waited to tag their bags at Newark Liberty International Airport for flights on United.

AAA is also expecting fewer cars on the road for the holiday season.

Last year, for Thanksgiving, 55 million people drove to see family for friends. This year, less than 50 million people are expected to.

According to AAA, that 10 percent drop in road travel is the largest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008.  

‘The wait-and-see travel trend continues to impact final travel decisions, especially for the Thanksgiving holiday,’ said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a statement. 

‘The decision to travel is a personal one. For those who are considering making a trip, the majority will go by car, which provides the flexibility to modify holiday travel plans up until the day of departure.’

For those who are planning to host a dinner, the CDC issued some recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.   

Officials advise against gathering with anyone who has not lived in the same household for at least 14 days, the incubation period for the virus.

For anyone who is visiting a home where they don’t live full-time, the CDC suggests outdoor gatherings if possible with guests placed six feet apart and wearing masks.  

‘From an individual household level, what’s at stake is basically increased chance of one of your loved ones becoming sick and then hospitalized and dying,’ Henry Walke, incident manager for the CDC’s COVID-19 response, said during a briefing on Thursday. 

‘We certainly don’t want to see that happen. These times are tough. It’s been a long outbreak.’

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