The Thanksgiving travel rush was back after a few years of depressed numbers, with some new habits common among returning travelers.
During the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, the Thanksgiving travel rush, one of the two big travel crunches of the year, saw a huge decline to almost nothing. But now for the first time in almost three years, travel numbers returned to normal.
“Of course it’s a stressful and expensive time to fly,” said Chris Williams, 44, who works in finance and flew to Georgia to see his family. “But after a couple years of not getting to spend Thanksgiving with our extended family, I’d say we’re feeling thankful that the world’s gotten to a safe enough place where we can be with loved ones again.”
The busiest days for the Thanksgiving travel rush are historically Tuesday and Wednesday and the Sunday after the holiday. Different working and playing patterns now mean more people want that little extra time, and the FAA predicts Tuesday will be the heavy day with over 48,000 scheduled flights ready to handle it.
On Monday, over 2.6 million people boarded planes, according to the TSA.
“People are traveling on different days. Not everyone is traveling on that Wednesday night,” says Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president at the trade group Airlines for America. “People are spreading their travel out throughout the week, which I also think will help ensure smoother operations.”
So far, the holiday has not been plagued by the airlines struggling to keep up, as have many recent holidays. They seem to have managed to schedule and staff enough flights for all, with only a few hundred cancellations or serious delays so far.
We did have a challenging summer,” said Pinkerton, whose group speaks for members including American, United, and Delta. She said that airlines have pared their schedules and hired thousands of workers — they now have more pilots than before the pandemic. “As a result, we’re confident that the week is going to go well.”