Thanksgiving air travel numbers hint at strong end of year trend

By Liz Moyer -- Thanksgiving weekend flight travel culminated in the largest number of people passing through airport security checkpoints since the start of the pandemic, welcome news to hospitality industry companies and their investors.

The Transportation Security Administration screened 2,560,623 passengers on Sunday, capping off a busy holiday weekend, though the total number of air travelers was still below pre-pandemic highs.

About 24.6 million people went through TSA checkpoints from Nov. 18 to Nov. 28, a drop of nearly 6% from the same period in 2019. And Sunday’s total was 11% lower than the Sunday after Thanksgiving three years ago.

But the trend sets up expectations for the end of year holidays as would-be vacationers scour the internet for travel deals. Since 2017, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving has been called Travel Tuesday, where shoppers can find discounts for hotels, flights and travel packages.

Shares of travel booking sites are rising. Expedia Inc (NASDAQ:EXPE) was up 2.8%, while Booking Holdings Inc (NASDAQ:BKNG) was up 1.6%. Group Ltd ADR (NASDAQ:TCOM) was up 3.9%.

Both Expedia and shares have been under pressure this year, falling 43% and 16% year to date. is up 18.9% this year.

Travel pricing tracker Hopper said prices continue to rise. While travelers paid an average $350 a ticket for a domestic flight at Thanksgiving, and $189 a night for a hotel room, the prices for Christmas break are higher: the average domestic flight is up to $463 a ticket, and hotel rooms are going for an average of $218 a night, the site said.

Airfares are averaging 31% more than in 2019, and 39% higher than last year, Hopper said. 

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