The Thanksgiving rush is back with some new habits

The Thanksgiving travel rush is back again this year as people catch planes in numbers not seen in years, putting aside concerns about inflation to reunite with loved ones and enjoy some normalcy after two holiday seasons marked by COVID-19 restrictions.

Changing your work and play habits, however, can spread the crowd and reduce the usual amount of stress on vacation. Experts say many people will take vacations earlier or come home later than usual because they’ll be spending a few days working remotely — or at least telling their boss they’re telecommuting.

The busiest travel days during Thanksgiving week are usually Tuesday, Wednesday and the Sunday after the holiday. This year, the Federal Aviation Administration expects Tuesday to be the busiest travel day with roughly 48,000 flights scheduled.

Chris Williams of Raleigh, North Carolina, flew with his wife and two children to Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday morning to spend the holidays with extended family.

“Of course this is a stressful and expensive time to fly,” said Williams, 44, who works in finance. “But after several years of not being able to spend Thanksgiving with our extended family, I’d say we’re thankful that the world has come to a safe enough place where we can be with loved ones again.”

Although Williams said the family’s budget was tight this year, he took the opportunity to teach his children the basics of personal finance. His youngest, 11, has been learning how to budget her money since March and is excited to buy little gifts for her friends on Black Friday or Cyber ​​Monday. “Probably slime,” she said, “with glitter.

The Transportation Security Administration screened nearly 2.3 million travelers on Tuesday, down from more than 2.4 million screened on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in 2019. Monday’s numbers were up from 2019 — more than 2.6 million passengers compared to 2.5 million. The same trend occurred on Sunday, marking the first year in which the number of people catching planes on Thanksgiving surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

“People travel on different days. “Not everyone is traveling on that Wednesday night,” says Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president of the Airlines Americas trade group. “People are spreading their journeys throughout the week, which I also think will help ensure business runs smoothly.”

AAA predicts 54.6 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home in the U.S. this week, up 1.5% from Thanksgiving last year and down just 2% from 2019. The auto club and insurance retailer says nearly 49 million of them travel by car, and 4.5 million will fly between Wednesday and Sunday.

US airlines have struggled to keep up as passenger numbers have grown this year.

“We’ve had a challenging summer,” said Pinkerton, whose group speaks for members including American, United and Delta. She said airlines have reduced their schedules and hired thousands of workers – now they have more pilots than before the pandemic. “As a result, we are confident that the week will go well.”

US airlines plan to operate 13% fewer flights this week than they did during Thanksgiving week 2019. However, by using larger planes on average, the number of seats will drop by just 2%, according to travel researcher Cirium.

Airlines continue to blame flight cancellations on a lack of air traffic controllers, particularly in Florida, a major vacation destination.

Controllers, who work for the Federal Aviation Administration, “are tested around the holidays.” That seems to be when we have challenges,” Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle said a few days ago. “The FAA is adding another 10% to the workforce, hopefully that’s enough.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg disputed such claims, saying the vast majority of delays and cancellations are caused by the airlines themselves.

TSA expects airports to be busier than last year and likely to be on par in 2019. The busiest day in TSA history was the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2019, when nearly 2.9 million people were screened at airport checkpoints.

Stephanie Escutia, who is traveling with her four children, husband and mother, said it took the family four hours to get through screening and security at the Orlando airport early Tuesday. The family was returning to Kansas City in time for Thanksgiving after a birthday trip to Disney World.

“We were surprised how full the park was,” said Escutia, 32. “We thought it might be a little down, but it was packed.”

She welcomed the sense of normalcy and said her family will get together for Thanksgiving without worrying about keeping their distance this year. “Now we are back to normal and we are looking forward to a nice holiday,” she said.

The people behind the wheel or boarding the plane don’t seem bothered by higher gas and plane ticket prices than last year or widespread concerns about inflation and the economy. This is already leading to predictions of strong travel over the Christmas and New Year period.

“This pent-up demand for travel is still real.” “It doesn’t look like it’s going away,” says Tom Hall, vice president and longtime writer for Lonely Planet, a travel guide publisher. “It’s keeping the planes full, it’s keeping the prices high.”


Associated Press writers Hannah Schoenbaum in Raleigh, North Carolina, Margaret Stafford in Kansas City and AP video reporter Terrence Chea in Oakland, California contributed to this report.


David Koenig can be found at

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