Thanksgiving week crowds missing at the Sunport - Albuquerque Journal

Thanksgiving week crowds missing at the Sunport

Travelers were scarce at the baggage claim area of the Albuquerque International Sunport on Tuesday. Passenger traffic at the Sunport this Thanksgiving week is down more than 70% compared with last year. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Despite an uptick in air travel around the U.S., the lead-up to Thanksgiving has been relatively quiet at New Mexico’s largest airport.

Passenger traffic at the Albuquerque International Sunport over the past week is down 72.5% from the same period last year, spokesman Jonathan Small said. It amounts to about 3,800 travelers per day.

That could jump to 5,100 on Wednesday, but that is still nearly three-quarters fewer than the day before Thanksgiving in 2019.

And that is if projections hold – the Sunport has in recent days had traffic beneath even the low projections from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

“(That) tells us people may be canceling their trips or just not showing up more (often) than usual,” Small said.

New Mexico, like the rest of the country, is in the midst of a major COVID-19 surge. The state’s seven-day average for new infections is more than three times higher than a month ago, and virus-related hospitalizations continue to set records.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned against traveling for Thanksgiving, given the country’s COVID-19 picture.

Nationwide traveler numbers for the past few days are still about 55%-60% lower than the same days last year, according to TSA throughput data. However, checkpoint numbers indicate that Sunday was the busiest day at American airports since March, according to USA Today.

At the Sunport, growth has seemingly stalled after slow gains throughout the spring and summer.

Whereas April traffic was down nearly 96% compared with April 2019, the year-to-year disparity was gradually shrinking. But Small said the year-to-year drop-off seems to have plateaued around 71%-72% since September.

The dramatic decline in travelers this year means the Sunport “doesn’t quite look the same (as normal), unfortunately,” Small said. “But, at the same time, that’s a good thing. It’s telling us New Mexicans are taking the pandemic seriously and avoiding travel wherever possible.”

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