'I felt pretty safe': Passengers return to the skies on busiest day of pandemic

The Transportation Security Administration said Sunday, Jan. 3, marked the highest number of passengers since the pandemic began.

More than 1.3 million people checked in at airports nationwide.

"I definitely feel comfortable flying and I’ll probably be flying again soon," said Evan Ostergren, a passenger who was traveling through Minneapolis-Saint Paul (MSP) International Airport.

He told FOX 9 during an interview that mitigation efforts such as wearing a face mask and social distancing on his Delta Airlines flight is why he feels comfortable flying during a pandemic.

And he’s not alone.

"I felt pretty safe," said Toshira Garraway. "One thing Delta Airline did was gave us these little hand sanitizer packets."

TSA reports that more than 4 million people passed through security checkpoints during New Year weekend. Travel experts attribute vaccine rollouts as one of the reason for the increase, and of course, it being a holiday weekend.

"People are comfortable booking trips, you know far out into the fall and even winter next year and that just wasn’t happening for many, many months. People were not making travel plans whatsoever," said Kyle Potter, executive editor for Thrifty Traveler.

While air travel is picking up, Dr. Frank Rhame, an infectious disease specialist at Allina Health Care, said he’s concerned about the transmission of COVID-19 when people are waiting to board versus on the aircraft itself.

"Airplane travel is actually pretty safe but you cannot relax your COVID-19 precautions," he said. "I’m talking about distancing, masking, and avoiding small spaces when in airports."

MSP airport officials noted Sunday, Jan. 3, marked the fifth-busiest day of passenger traffic but numbers are down by more than 40 percent compared to this time last year.