Live updates: The coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant

Travellers go through the south security checkpoint in the terminal of Denver International Airport Friday, Dec. 24, 2021, in Denver.
Travellers go through the south security checkpoint in the terminal of Denver International Airport Friday, Dec. 24, 2021, in Denver. (David Zalubowski/AP)

While air travel this year had been approaching, and at times exceeding 2019 levels, Christmas Eve air travel fell sharply with more than 1.7 million people passing through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints Friday versus nearly 2.6 million two years ago amid last-minute flight cancellations due to the Omicron surge.

“TSA screened 1,709,601 people at airport checkpoints nationwide yesterday, Christmas Eve,” TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein tweeted Saturday.

That number is higher than the 846,520 people the agency screened on Christmas Eve of last year. But it is more than 800,000 fewer people than the TSA screened on the same day in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic. 

Airlines have canceled thousands of flights this Christmas weekend as staff and crew call out sick during the Omicron surge. On the Wednesday before the holiday, there were more people traveling through US airports than in 2019. The TSA says it screened 2.19 million people at airports across the country on Thursday — the highest figure of the week.

CNN previously reported that, globally, airlines have canceled about 5,700 flights on Christmas Eve day, Christmas and the day after Christmas, according to FlightAware. That includes about 1,700 flights within, into or out of the United States.

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