(Headline USA) The Thanksgiving travel rush was back on this year, as people caught planes in numbers not seen in years, setting aside skyrocketing inflation concerns caused by the Biden administration’s reckless policies, to reunite with loved ones and enjoy some normalcy after two holiday seasons marked by COVID-19 restrictions mandated by federal medical monarchs.
Changing habits around work and play, however, might spread out the crowds and reduce the usual amount of holiday travel stress. Experts say many people will start holiday trips early or return home later than normal because they will spend a few days working remotely — or at least tell the boss they’re working remotely.
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 scheduled flights.
Chris Williams, of Raleigh, North Carolina, flew Tuesday morning with his wife and two kids to Atlanta, Georgia, to spend the holiday with extended family.
“Of course it’s a stressful and expensive time to fly,” said Williams, 44, who works in finance. “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 Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2.6 million travelers on Monday, surpassing the 2.5 million screened the Monday before Thanksgiving in 2019. The same trend occurred Sunday, marking the first year that the number of people catching planes on Thanksgiving week surpassed pre-pandemic levels.
“People are traveling on different days. Not everyone is traveling on that Wednesday night,” said 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.”
AAA predicts that 54.6 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home in the U.S. this week, a 1.5% bump over Thanksgiving last year and only 2% less than in 2019. The auto club and insurance seller says nearly 49 million of those will travel by car, and 4.5 million will fly between Wednesday and Sunday.
U.S. airlines plan to operate 13% fewer flights this week than during Thanksgiving week in 2019. However, by using larger planes on average, the number of seats will drop only 2%, according to data from travel-researcher Cirium.
TSA expects airports to be busier than last year and probably about on par with 2019. The busiest day in TSA’s history came on the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2019, when nearly 2.9 million people were screened at airport checkpoints.
“This pent-up demand for travel is still a real thing. It doesn’t feel like it’s going away,” says Tom Hall, a vice president and longtime writer for Lonely Planet, the publisher of travel guides. “That’s keeping planes full, that’s keeping prices high.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press