As Thanksgiving Approaches, Travel Inches Up, But Fuel Consumption Is Still Way Down

Air travel is down 40% from a year ago; gas consumption is down 10%.

By Alexandra HartNovember 23, 2020 12:50 pm,

The holidays are upon us which, in normal times, means a big season for travel, and for fuel demand. But things are a bit different this year. As COVID cases increase nationwide, many Americans are rethinking their Thanksgiving travels. Still others are pressing on with their plans, albeit against the guidance of health authorities who caution this isn’t the time to be moving about the country.

“You’ve got travelers that were screened at U.S. airport security checkpoints, they topped one million last Friday,” said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData. “That’s only the second time since March where we’ve seen it that high. So we are seeing that increased activity.”

Still, Smith said, air travel is down 40% from this time last year. Gasoline, on the other hand, has seen higher demand than jet fuel, as more travelers avoid airplanes and opt instead to travel in personal vehicles. 

“Nonetheless, you know, we’re now getting a rise in cases. You know, we’ve got schools shifting back to being online. Much of the U.S. workforce is still working at home. So gasoline demand is still lagging year-ago levels by about 10%,” Smith said.

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