Airlines Prepare for Record Thanksgiving Travel

(Photo by Josh Sorenson)
(Photo by Josh Sorenson)
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Holiday travel has always been a crowd sport, but not like this year.

The Transportation Security Administration is expecting to screen 30 million passengers between this past Sunday and November 28, the agency announced, marking an all-time record for Turkey Day traveling. It may just be safe to assume some stress on the system.

Bumpy Skies

Air travel has surged since the end of the pandemic, and the industry writ large is adapting. Southwest Airlines has invested heavily in winter-weather readiness in a move to prevent the costly domino effects of weather-related delays and cancellations. United, meanwhile, implemented an it’s-so-obvious-we-can’t-believe-it-took-so-long new method of boarding, which has travelers boarding in waves, with window seats going first and aisle seats going last — all in a bid to keep flights on time. Still, a continued shortage of air traffic controllers may erase the airlines’ best efforts.

But while the packed airports and possible delays may make Thanksgiving travel a massive headache, many fliers can at least take solace in what it’s costing them:

  • Roundtrip tickets around Thanksgiving this year are averaging just $248, according to flight-tracker Hopper, down from $271 last year and $276 in the Great Before Times of 2019.
  • That tracks with the latest inflation report from the US Department of Labor, which notched airfare as down more than 13% in October compared to a year ago.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Of course, air travel is only part of the equation. According to a AAA report published last week, in addition to the 30 million fliers, another 25 million or so Americans will cross at least 50 miles by car, train, or bus to reach their turkey dinners. And who knows — they may even bring an unexpected John Candy-esque guest along with them.

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