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The busiest travel day in pandemic

Health experts in the U.S. urged Americans to spend the holidays at home to help curb the spread of COVID-19. However, millions of people still used air travel to reach another destination this season.

As people head home this weekend after wrapping up New Year and Christmas celebrations, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is releasing new data on how many people they recorded at airports across the country.

More than 14 million people passed through their checkpoints since Friday, Dec. 18. That number is less than how many people traveled during the same time period last year – more than 33 million.

On Saturday alone, the TSA screened 1,192,881 people. In Houston, long lines of masked travelers were seen crammed together waiting to check-in at Terminal B at Bush Intercontinental Airport on Saturday morning.

On New Year’s Day, TSA officers screened 805,990 people at security checkpoints, compared to 2,311,732 on Jan. 1, 2020.

The Houston Airport System told they project 1.68 million people will have flown through both Bush and Hobby in a 17-day period from Dec. 18 to Jan. 3. This holiday season’s number is slightly more than half of the number of people who flew last year – nearly 3 million travelers.

According to TSA, Sunday, Jan. 3 could be the busiest day for air travel since the pandemic started.

The high number of travelers and the presence of wintry conditions in some parts of the country are severely impacting flight times. Chicago O’Hare is seeing the biggest impact from the winter storm moving across the country. More than 1,000 flights in the country were canceled just on Saturday, and almost 5,000 flights were delayed in the U.S, according to Flight Aware.

Flight Aware shows live cancellations and delays by the airport, airline, and day of travel.