Holiday travel in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic

The Thanksgiving holiday travel period technically doesn't start until Wednesday, but will it be crowded like in years past? Doesn’t seem that way, according to officials at LAX.

There are people that want to see family. Others have a desperate need, like Cece Sapp, of Los Angeles.

Sapp will be on a red-eye flight to Ohio.

“I’ve got a pandemic arsenal. I’ve got a shield... N-95 mask...” she says.

It’s not a pleasure trip. Her dad has cancer. She doesn’t expect him to live much longer.

There is another family member who is not well either. Sapp says, “If I didn’t have this situation right now with my dad being this ill I wouldn’t be going at all. I didn’t even want to step on a plane this year.”

But, for those who are the LAX, the public address system is blasting messages about being safe. The voice on the speakers warning, “Always wear a face covering over your face and nose; practice physical distancing by 6 feet.”

But, from what we saw, there weren’t that many ears to hear the messages. Not compared to, say, last year.

Back then, the drive from I-405 to LAX was packed early in Thanksgiving week. Not this year. Last year, on the Monday before Thanksgiving, 93,000 cars traveled on LAX's airport loop. Not this year. And inside the terminals, passengers stood shoulder-to-shoulder. This year? Not so much.

When asking a traveler to Dallas why he was waiting for a plane he said he was “going to see family.” That’s the case for many, but it’s not just air travel. People are driving places this week, but that’s expected to be own as are busses and trains.

Doug Shupe is a spokesman for the Auto Club of Southern California. He tells FOX 11, “It’s going to be the biggest drop year over year in Thanksgiving travel since the 2008 recession when Thanksgiving travel dropped by 26%.”

To be accurate, no one really knows what the travel numbers will look like at the end of the holiday period. At the beginning of the pandemic - in March and April - travel at LAX was down 95%. By summer it was up to 70% down. And now, with the latest restrictions and concerns, it’s hard to guess, but there are people traveling. In fact, LAX officials say travel was up a little over this past weekend. On this day we ran into a man is heading to New Jersey. We asked him how he felt about traveling during the pandemic.

He said, “you know... it’s like everything else. You’ve just got to be careful with what you do.”

A Denver-bound woman told us, “I haven’t actually seen my family now in months and I just wanted to see them for the holidays, of course.”

That brings us back to Cece Sapp who just wants to see her dad perhaps for the last time. “It’s tough,” she says. “It’s a decision that I had to think about, but I think I would feel worse if I didn’t see him and he passed on and I never had had a chance to tell him goodbye."

Get your top stories delivered daily! Sign up for FOX 11’s Fast 5 newsletter. And, get breaking news alerts in the FOX 11 News app. Download for iOS or Android.