MSP passengers weigh visiting family against risks on busiest travel day of pandemic

During this holiday season, in this pandemic year, travelers like Bavana Rangan face a difficult choice: To go or stay.

“So yeah, it’s an emotionally charged decision,” she said. “It’s a stressful time for everyone, especially toddlers, so people’s nerves are a little frayed because everyone wants to be with family. You want to keep your family safe.“

Health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging Americans not to travel over the holidays.

Among passengers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the overwhelming draw was about family.

“We were being cautious about it, and none of us had any symptoms, anything,” said Aaron Klaustereier, an Indiana resident who traveled to see family in Minnesota.

“We decided it would be worth the trip,” he added

An MSP Airport spokesperson says 19,000 people went through security checkpoints here on Sunday. That’s less than half the numbers of last year at this time, but it’s the busiest day dating back to March.

The Transportation Security Administration says it screened 1.1 million people at U.S. airports on Saturday alone.

“I feel pretty safe in the airplane,“ said Nick Meints of Minneapolis, who just flew home after visiting his parents in Denver. “In the airport is where it’s a little more funky.“

But he hedged his bets, reserving a first-class seat and not lingering too long in public areas.

This is his only holiday trip.

“I decided to stay here for Thanksgiving and not come home,“ Meints said. “ I figured going one time would be a little better.“

Then there’s Jackie Sanders.

“Very much I am nervous,“ she said.

Sanders, who has been caring for her 86-year-old mother in South Dakota for the past five months, is trying to get home to Seattle. She said she is still torn over her decision to take a plane.

“I have thought every few days, ‘I wish I had done the drive,’” Sanders said. “But that has dangers, too. You stop when you’re driving.“

Rangan, back home from visiting family in New York State, says her decision to fly was wrenching.

But for her, she says, it was the right thing to do.

“I am a healthcare researcher myself,” she said. “My husband is a physician, and you have to weigh all that, you know. But life also has to go on."