The Transportation Security Administration is looking to screen more than 2.5 million passengers the Sunday after the national holiday, which is a little higher than screenings at airport checkpoints the same day last year.
According to AAA travel agency, nearly 55 million Americans will take to the roads, skies and rails, with air travel recovering to about 99 percent of the 2019 levels before the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In this regard, airports and airlines are getting ready to meet air travel’s high demand this season. “We’re ready,” American Airlines Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Robert Isom said at an industry conference Wednesday, Nov. 23. “I expect every day to be pretty full – and manageable.”
Americans are more eager to travel now as the world is slowly easing out of the pandemic public health mandates. But staffing and aircraft shortages have capped the airline industry’s ability to ramp up capacity, resulting in fewer seats and heftier price tags for travelers’ air seats.
Domestic airfare for Thanksgiving is 17 percent higher than last year and in line with 2019 prices, according to travel app Hopper. International airfare is 30 percent higher than in 2019, it added. Hayley Berg, the app’s lead economist, said they have not seen any signs of demand declining in their search or booking data.
“Delta Air Lines Inc.’s planes are flying 90 percent full every day,” said Chief Executive Ed Bastian, adding that he expects the trend to continue “for some time” – even with fares at a premium.
Connecticut-based Eric Fabricant was flying on Monday, Nov. 21, from Newark International Airport to San Francisco. His ticket cost him $800, more than three times the $250 price two years ago.
“It’s very expensive now,” said the 55-year-old Dallas real estate agent Claudia Estudillo, whose trip comes with an inconvenient, late-night connection in Mexico City. “If I didn’t need to go, I wouldn’t.” She wasn’t prepared for the $300 more than she expected to pay per person and she’s traveling with her husband and daughter.
Bloomberg recently reported that Americans are still prioritizing travel over other consumer spending. (Related: Americans spent more on taxes than on food, healthcare, clothing and education COMBINED in 2021.)
Travelers to face delays, inconvenience and long flight hours
As of November 23, Louis Armstrong New Orleans Airport (MSY) has turned into one of the busiest places with flights coming in and out and travelers flocking the air station. Lots of flights are delayed one way or the other.
“I actually live in north Louisiana but I fly into here because the rates are good except for this,” traveler David Belknap, one of an estimated 24,000 people who are traveling through the airport this Thanksgiving.
“I’ll fly back out of here Monday and I’m already kind of dreading it,” said Belknap.
A trip that normally takes half a day, took Frankie Fata one full day. He arrived in New Orleans on Wednesday after flying from Guyana. Many flights were full so he had to make a few extra stops along the way.
“I had to fly all the way up to New York, then New York to Atlanta, then Atlanta to Louisiana so instead of doing our direct trip we had to plan accordingly,” Fata said. “One of the things they were doing is they made everyone check in their carry-on luggage because it was so crowded.”
Meanwhile, in North Alabama’s Huntsville International Airport, holiday travelers are encouraged to arrive at least 90 minutes to two hours ahead of their flight departure time to avoid hustling through concourses and security.
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