Despite multiple warnings from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to not travel, McCarran International Airport and other airports nationwide have seen an uptick in passenger volume in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.
But while there has been an increase in travelers at McCarran, the volume isn’t tracking as high as national levels.
“There are some people that are choosing to fly and we are seeing a steady stream of people coming through,” said Joe Rajchel, McCarran spokesman. “This past weekend wasn’t the busiest since the pandemic. We’ve seen busier weekends, so we’re not going to necessarily fall in that national trend of the busiest weekend they’ve seen. But we are seeing an increase in volume here.”
Since Nov. 19, more than 900,000 travelers have passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints each day with the 1 million mark eclipsed twice in the stretch — just the second and third time that level has been reached since March 16, according to TSA data. Between Nov. 1 and Nov. 18 there were no consecutive days of 900,000-pus passengers, with passenger counts coming in as low as 575,829 and as high as 970,000.
Despite the surge, passenger numbers are still tracking well below 2019 totals.
“While passenger volume is on the rise it still pales in comparison to our 2019 numbers,” said TSA spokesman Daniel Velez.
The busiest day over the past week was Sunday when 1.05 million travelers passed through TSA gates at U.S. airports. In comparison last year’s busiest day in the stretch was Sunday, Nov. 24, where 2.32 million passengers were screened, Velez said.
Doug Morgan and his daughters Lily and Sofia arrived at McCarran Wednesday morning from Benton City, Washington, to visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Morgan said their five-day trip will consist of spending time with his sister and mother, who he hasn’t seen in some time.
“We took the trek and the risk and flew out,” Morgan said. “I haven’t seen my mom in a couple of years.”
Washington state has a recommended 14-day self-quarantine period for anyone traveling in from outside of the state, which Morgan is well aware of.
“She (his daughter) doesn’t go to school, she does it all from home, so it’s quarantined at home,” Morgan said. “I just figure I’ll have to get a (COVID-19) test for work. We’ve been keeping real safe, especially in Washington, you’ve got to have a mask and everyone does, then sanitizing and all that. I don’t want to be too worried about it, but I probably should.”
Morgan said the family’s flight into Las Vegas had a decent amount of people on board, but it was not full. McCarran was moderately busy when they landed, he noted.
For the most part everyone was following safety protocols and wearing their masks properly throughout their trip.
“I only saw one yahoo with a mask around his chin on the way in here, but everyone else had one on correctly,” Morgan said.
Rajchel said the airport has increased efforts to remind residents and visitors to don masks when passing through McCarran, even before Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered more stringent restrictions this week as part of a three-week statewide pause.
“Just after Veterans Day we introduced new T-Shirts that our employees are wearing, reminding people to wear masks,” Rajchel said. “We have employees with masks on hand and they can go up to those without them and provide them one.
“It’s reminding people that we’re all in this together,” he said. “It’s about everyone staying safe and healthy.”