Travel by air skyrocketed toward pre-COVID levels ahead of Thanksgiving — and even exceeded 2019′s numbers some days.

More than 2 million people went through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints at U.S. airports each day between Nov. 17 and Nov. 23, according to data released Thursday by the TSA.

Wednesday was the busiest day, when more than 2.4 million travelers checked in.

Monday recorded more than 2.26 million passengers, exceeding the 2.25 million who traveled on the same day in 2019, the final year before the COVID-19 pandemic. Sunday’s total also slightly edged that of the same day three years ago.

The pandemic greatly reduced the number of travelers in 2020, when every day during that same stretch saw fewer than 1.1 million people go on U.S. flights. Those numbers jumped back above 2 million last year, but still fell short of the same-day totals recorded in 2019 and this year.

TSA warned this week that the number of travelers could match or surpass the pre-pandemic totals.

“With high travel volumes projected nationally and locally leading up to and after Thanksgiving, the best piece piece of advice I have for passengers is arrive at the airport early and arrive prepared,” said Greg Hawko, the TSA’s federal security director for Washington.

“This holiday season is no exception,” he said. “TSA diligently monitors our operations and makes needed adjustments throughout the day.”

Passengers traveling with Thanksgiving leftovers are allowed to bring turkey and other meats, baked goods, stuffing, vegetables and spices in their carry-on luggage for return flights, the TSA said. Large quantities of cranberry sauce, jams, wine gravy, and canned fruits and vegetables will need to be checked.

“If it’s a solid item, then it can go through a checkpoint,” the TSA said. “However, if you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, and it’s larger than 3.4 ounces, then it should go in a checked bag.”

Peter Sblendorio

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