Thanksgiving Travel: Anticipating Record Crowds Amidst Weather Concerns

Thanksgiving Travel: Anticipating Record Crowds Amidst Weather Concerns

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and despite concerns over inflation and memories of previous holiday travel disruptions, a record number of Americans are gearing up to hit the skies and roads. According to AAA forecasts, approximately 55.4 million people are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home between Wednesday and the Sunday after Thanksgiving, with Wednesday anticipated to be the busiest day on the roads.

For air travel, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is preparing for peak days on Tuesday, Wednesday, and the Sunday after Thanksgiving. TSA estimates screening 2.6 million passengers on Tuesday, 2.7 million on Wednesday, and a whopping 2.9 million on Sunday, potentially breaking previous records set in June. U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasized the government’s efforts to enhance holiday travel readiness, including hiring more air traffic controllers, establishing new air routes, and providing grants to airports for essential equipment.

However, Mother Nature could throw a wrench into travel plans, with a storm system expected to sweep from the southern Plains to the Northeast, bringing thunderstorms, gusty winds, and possible snow on Tuesday and Wednesday. Travelers are urged to stay informed about road conditions and flight schedules.

On a positive note, travelers can expect some relief in their wallets. Airfares have decreased by an average of 14% compared to last year, with an average ticket price of $268, according to Hopper. Gasoline prices are also down, averaging $3.30 per gallon nationwide, a decrease of 45 cents from the previous year.

Despite the cost savings, a survey by GasBuddy reveals that the number of people planning long driving trips hasn’t changed significantly from last year. Analysts suggest that while falling gas prices are appreciated, other expenses, such as rising food costs and increased credit card usage, might impact overall travel spending.

As the holiday travel season kicks off, memories of last December’s travel chaos linger. Yet, there is cautious optimism that this year may fare better, with airlines avoiding widespread disruptions so far. Southwest, which faced challenges in 2022, has taken steps to improve its operations, purchasing additional deicing equipment and updating crew-scheduling technology.

While U.S. airlines have reduced cancellations by 38% through October compared to 2022, consumer complaints about airline service have surged. Airlines attribute these challenges to a shortage of air traffic controllers, especially in key facilities. Despite these hurdles, the industry has seen a significant workforce rebound since the pandemic’s early days, with airlines hiring over 140,000 workers.

In preparation for Thanksgiving, airlines are expanding their workforces to accommodate increased demand. Southwest plans to offer 13% more seats, United and Delta plan an 8% growth each, and American, while more modest, will increase seats by 5%. Travelers are advised to stay updated on travel conditions and exercise patience as they navigate the holiday rush.