Nov 22, 2021 - Business

Thanksgiving travel expected to near 2019 levels

Data: AAA Colorado; Chart: John Frank/Axios
Data: AAA Colorado; Chart: John Frank/Axios

Thanksgiving travel is approaching pre-pandemic levels in Colorado, even as COVID-19 rates near all-time highs.

By the numbers: AAA Colorado predicts travel this week in the state to exceed national averages and land just 3.7% below 2019 volume.

  • Denver International Airport expects travel between Nov. 19 and Nov. 30 to increase 2.7% above the same period in 2019, with more than 2 million travelers.

Why it matters: The uptick in travel gives public health officials reason to worry as Americans resume activities despite troubling COVID-19 rates in certain parts of the country, including Colorado.

What to know: Denver's public health agency issued an advisory ahead of Thanksgiving week urging people to wear masks indoors, gather outside if possible and avoid crowded spaces.

  • Officials also advise getting tested for COVID-19 ahead of holiday get-togethers.

Between the lines: Even as travel nears normal rates, staff shortages and COVID protocols mean it won't feel like traveling pre-pandemic.

  • DIA officials are warning fliers to arrive two hours before boarding times. The busiest stretches for security screening at the Denver airport are generally 5-10am and 1-4pm.
  • The busiest times on the road are midday, roughly noon-7pm, AAA reports.

What they're saying: "Americans are reuniting with their loved ones for the holidays," said Skyler McKinley, a Colorado-based spokesperson for AAA. "That's all set against a complicated travel backdrop, though, so travelers should budget extra time and understand that we're still living in extraordinary times."

Of note: Inflation is making travel more costly.

  • Average gas prices in Colorado this Thanksgiving sit at $3.49 a gallon — the highest rate since 2011, AAA says.

What's next: A Morning Consult survey for the American Hotel & Lodging Association found even more people plan to travel over the Christmas holiday, up 24% from a year ago.


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