Thanksgiving is spurring last-minute flight demand in the US despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the collapse in aviation, new data reveals.

Many Americans plan to return to the skies over the period leading up to the national Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday (November 26), according to research by travel analytics firm ForwardKeys.

Fort Myers in Florida is the top destination based on bookings for departures between November 19-25, although numbers are 11.9% behind last year’s levels. Tampa follows ahead of Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Denver – all ski gateways.

The next five cities are Miami, Orlando, Kahului in Hawaii, Dallas, and Las Vegas.

ForwardKeys insights vice president Olivier Ponti said: “The Covid-19 crisis has decimated international air travel and badly damaged [US] domestic air travel.

“In the past three weeks, we have seen the pace of bookings decelerate and that correlates with the third wave of the virus.

“However, there are a couple of highly resilient periods, Christmas and Thanksgiving, where bookings have not slowed down and are relatively much stronger than they are for the rest of the year.

“Flight tickets issued in the week commencing 8th November, for travel over the Thanksgiving period surged to 74.5% of last year’s volumes.”

He added: “Whilst hardly anybody is travelling on business, the encouraging news for the travel industry is that people don’t want to drop what they usually do for Thanksgiving and are keen to travel.

“As going abroad is much more of a hassle owing to Covid-19 travel restrictions, we are seeing a greater proportion of Thanksgiving bookings being domestic, 91% this year, compared to 79% last year.

“There is even room for a little more optimism, because with booking trends being increasingly last-minute, numbers will likely climb further this week.”