Millions of Americans are traveling this Thanksgiving weekend, with numbers expected to be the busiest since the pandemic began.
Auto club AAA predicts 53 million people will travel by car. They say 48.3 million will travel at least 50 miles from home despite high gasoline prices, and millions more are expected to fly.
Air travel Expect To Approach or Exceed Pre-Pandemic Levels
The number of air travelers this week is expected to approach or even exceed pre-pandemic levels.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expects to screen more than 20 million people at airport security checkpoints nationwide over the 10-day period from last Friday, November 19 until the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Last Friday, the TSA Tweeted:
“JUST IN: @TSA officers screened 2,242,956 people at airport security checkpoints nationwide yesterday, Friday, November 19. It’s the highest checkpoint volume since passenger volume tanked in early 2020 as a result of the pandemic,” TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein tweeted Saturday. “The Thanksgiving travel period has begun! #MaskUp
The TSA anticipates the Sunday after Thanksgiving will likely see the highest numbers due to a rush of travelers returning home but will probably not reach the record set on the same day in 2019 when 2.9 million people were screened.
United said it expects 4.5 million to fly between November 19 and November 30, or 88% of the volume of the 2019 holiday season.
Despite the concerns over delays due to the TSA mask mandate, they are reassuring travelers not to worry.
“I wouldn’t say there’s any worry because we planned for this for months in advance,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske told CNN.
“We have a lot of data, we work very closely with the carriers and the airports, so we know what to anticipate and then we staff to the volumes that we expect to see.”
So far, the airport chaos does not seem to be as bad as predicted. But if the amount of passengers screened exceeds expectations, airlines risk flight cancellations due to short staffing and bad weather, as what happened last month with American Airlines.
However, it seems airlines are more prepared for the rush of travelers this time.
Airlines for America, a trade organization representing major airlines like Delta and American, said carriers have been hiring employees and recalling employees who took voluntary leave to prepare for increased demand.
Airlines have also rushed to improve app and website functionality to make checking-in time faster.
Tips For Travelers During Thanksgiving
Andrew Gross, a spokesperson for AAA, said that air travelers should be prepared for crowds.
“So we’re telling people, look, you’re going to find lines at the airport. It’s just inevitable. So get there that old-fashioned at least two hours early. And if it’s an international flight, three hours early.”
If you haven’t gotten your thanksgiving flight yet, book early in the morning so that if the flight gets canceled, you have more options throughout the day of being rebooked.
Willis Orlando from Scott’s Cheap Flights also recommends booking nonstop flights offered several times a day on major carriers to up your odds of getting rebooked on the same itinerary.
If it gets canceled, go directly to the airline website or app to rebook, as it’s usually faster.
The Association of Flight Attendants union recommends that travelers rethink drinking alcoholic beverages before the flight, as anyone who appears intoxicated will be denied boarding. Unruly passengers have increased over the last year, and the FAA is handing out hefty fines.
“Flying has changed since the start of the pandemic,” said Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants union. “Be prepared and remember that weather is always a factor in potential disruptions to aviation.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends that travelers should be vaccinated, and if you are not vaccinated, you should take a Covid test before and after your trip.