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Air travel for Thanksgiving didn’t hit the highs of 2019, but it was close. About 2.3 million people passed through Transportation Safety Administration checkpoints on Wednesday, more travelers than on any other day during the pandemic.

That figure was more than twice as many travelers as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving last year. This year’s total was around 88 percent of travelers who flew that same Wednesday in 2019.

Social media was abuzz with almost equal complaints about the longest airport lines people have known in years and were amazed that the lines were so short, reinforcing the idea that the unpredictability of the pandemic persists.

Among those travelers who shared a sense of excitement about being able to visit their family this Thanksgiving was San Diego’s Katie Thurston, known to some as the Bachelorette from season 17 of this reality show.

“Coming back to something that feels normal makes me so emotional,” she said in a phone interview, after tweeting her tearful reaction to landing in Seattle to visit her mom and sister and meet his little niece for the first time.

Hundreds of airport food service workers picketed the San Francisco International Airport on Wednesday over a dispute involving healthcare. But contrary to the fears of some passengers – and warnings from the Southwest Airlines pilots union in August – there were no walkouts or pilots on Wednesday.

Amid fears that passengers will become aggressive with flight attendants and fight over masks – issues throughout the pandemic – Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has urged federal prosecutors to prioritize prosecutions of passengers who commit assaults or other crimes on board.

Typically, the busiest days for air travel during the Thanksgiving period are the Tuesday and Wednesday before the holidays, and the Sunday after, according to a TSA spokesperson.

United said the airline expected the Sunday after Thanksgiving to be its busiest day since the start of the pandemic. Still, the day looked unlikely to beat pre-pandemic travel numbers overall, given how extraordinary this weekend was two years ago. More people flew on the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2019 – according to TSA checkpoint data – than ever in the agency’s 20-year history.

And travelers are unlikely to face weather delays when trying to return home.

“Sunday is fairly calm in much of the country,” said Lara Pagano, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Still, Becky Esquivel, a TSA officer at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, urged people to arrive at least two hours before boarding their return flight just to be safe.

nytimes Gt

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