TSA Anticipates Thanksgiving Travel Rush Close To Pre-Pandemic Numbers


Partly because it falls on a Thursday every year, Thanksgiving has long represented the busiest single airline travel event of the year—making it one of the best times to be able to fly yourself. As reported in Fortune online, for 2021, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) projects an average of some 2 million people per day will travel on airline flights between Nov. 19 and Nov. 28. The agency said there is a possibility that key choke days will drastically exceed that average number. According to travel group AAA, airline passenger throughput for the remainder of this week (Nov. 23-28) will fall just 9 percent short of that same time frame in 2019, the last Thanksgiving period before the pandemic.

United Airlines anticipates a total of more than 4.5 million passengers for the time period, close to 90 percent of its 2019 throughput. Delta expects to have the same percentage in comparison to pre-pandemic numbers, filling at least 5.6 million seats.

American and Southwest were hit hard with canceled flights last month, according to Fortune. Staffing issues and bad weather combined to cripple service. Both carriers faced criticism for ramping up traffic too quickly, leading to thousands of canceled flights stranding travelers across the country. In response, both airlines have cut back on schedules and redoubled efforts to bring employees back, hire new workers and offer incentives to keep people working through the holiday period.

For those readers who will be flying themselves and their families on holiday travel, be sure to plan well, make alternative plans in case of iffy weather and fly safely.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. I flew out of PHX Sky Harbor a couple of weeks ago – security was a nightmare. First class (high I normally don’t fly) took over 20 minutes to get through. Coach (which I usually DO fly!) had to have taken hours. The stations were packed and the zig-zag lines were just that.

  2. I started doing a lot of business travel this year so I got TSA Pre.

    Worth. Every. Penny.

    It’s almost like traveling was in the 90s. Yeah, still no “Gentleman’s knives” or large quantities of liquids in the carry-on. But the lines are short, I don’t have to take off my shoes, belt, or jacket, just breeze through the metal detector. Even on the busiest travel days when the regular security line starts out the door, I’ve been through Pre in about five minutes.

    Honestly, I almost hate to mention it for fear more people will start getting it and lengthen the line!

  3. People who have the money are avoiding all of the TSA nonsense (except for going to Nantucket where the President is) by going charter. Business in the pt135 world is booming and very much oversold.

  4. I have to chuckle when hearing from folks about the hassle of airport checkin etc, & rather drive.
    How could anyone make that comparison when spending 30 minutes or more in lines, vs that amount of time on the road – y’know what I mean – eh?