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Welcome home: Airport homecomings soar over past year

TSA anticipates airline traffic for days surrounding Thanksgiving will approach the levels seen in 2019, prior to the COVID pandemic.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Thanksgiving Eve is among the busiest travel days of the year, and AAA predicted more than 53 million people will travel for the holiday, which would be the highest  number since 2005. 

The vast majority, however, about 48 million, are traveling by car, with just over 4 million flying this year. 

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration says that number approaches the level seen in 2019, prior to the COVID pandemic.

For those waiting to welcome loved ones at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, reunions played out not unlike those you see in a typical year.

But some of them took on added meaning because there were so many that did not occur here last year, due to COVID and the restrictions that New York still had in place on airline passengers last Thanksgiving.

"It's so important because we missed Thanksgiving and Christmas last year as a family, so this year we are thrilled," said Kay Kempner of Williamsville, who was preparing to have Thanksgiving with her son, daughter, and their children.

Her daughter, Kelly Bryce, who lives in Boston, Mass., agreed.

"Last year it was sad, and we had a lot of Zoom calls through the holidays. Now it's nice to be here," she said.

Unlike most Thanksgiving travelers at the airport on Wednesday, Kelly and her family hadn't flown in. They drove from Boston to Buffalo, then drove to the airport to get ... haircuts.

Find out why by clicking on the video player above the story, or in the YouTube video below.