The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending against Americans traveling for Thanksgiving, a potential blow to airline hopes of seeing an uptick in revenue this holiday season.

Airlines have seen demand plummet due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the industry is expecting modest improvement in demand during traditional travel holidays, including Thanksgiving.

An empty airport waiting area.

Image source: Getty Images.

That wouldn't be a good thing, according to Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager. During a media briefing on Thursday, Dr. Walke said there is "no more important time than now for each and every American to redouble our efforts to watch our distance, wash our hands and, most importantly, wear a mask."

He advised those who do decide to travel to do so "as safely as possible by following the same recommendations for everyday living."

The guidance comes at a time when many airlines have been trying to make the case that there is little COVID-19 risk to flying. United Airlines Holdings (NASDAQ:UAL) in October cited a Pentagon study that it says concluded the risk of COVID-19 exposure in flight is "almost nonexistent," and most airlines have resumed selling all of their seats after initially limiting capacity.

The CDC commentary is likely too late to alter many plans for Thanksgiving, but could influence booking patterns heading into December. Airline stocks have been moving higher in recent weeks partly on positive news concerning the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, but also because airlines are optimistic they will see an uptick in the fourth quarter thanks to holiday vacations.

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