Airlines and airports in the United States are preparing for the many Americans that are set to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday week. According to the United States Transportation Security Administration, last Friday was the busiest day of air travel since March 2020, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Friday saw 2.24 million travelers screened, while the TSA is anticipating about 20 million travelers during the Thanksgiving travel time period. In comparison, about 26 million people traveled in the United States during the Thanksgiving period in 2019, before the pandemic began and forced air travel to a halt.
While Americans have started taking planes and traveling around the country again, air travel has still been slightly limited ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began. At first, there were many restrictions when it came to flying, and many health officials warned against getting on planes or traveling to this extent. Now, however, as cases dwindle and many Americans have become vaccinated, traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday is possible.
The weather could remain an issue, though the forecast is currently somewhat calm. Officials were worried a few weeks ago, as it appeared that many storms would likely halt flights and cause mass delays. That hasn’t happened yet, so many are now being optimistic that weather may not delay a lot of flights.
Airlines have struggled since the start of the pandemic. Throughout 2020, air travel hit many lows, as Americans steered clear of flying and traveling. Bookings and flights picked up in 2021 once Americans started getting vaccinated, though the Delta variant of the virus then complicated things and forced airlines again to experience cancellations. Now, however, as the holiday season begins, it appears that airlines will once again deal with mass travelers during the Thanksgiving holiday season. Now until the beginning of next year will likely be very busy for the airlines, as many travel during November and December for the holidays.
Airlines have also struggled because of the labor shortage in the United States. The labor shortage has affected many different industries in 2021. The airline industry is just one industry, though a major one at that. Because of their lack of labor, cancellations because of bad weather turned into mass flight cancellations around the nation earlier this year. Once the weather started impacting their flights, their already strained employees couldn’t get where they needed to be, so many other flights that weren’t experiencing bad weather were then canceled.
As a result, various airlines started increasing their pay and offering bonuses to those who start to work for them — especially those who start to work for them during the peak holiday seasons. While many airline companies have since touted that they have enough workers to accurately serve travelers, analysts will truly be able to see if this is the case if bad weather does halt some flights during this Thanksgiving holiday period.
While traveling levels haven’t yet hit what was experienced in 2019 before the pandemic began, airlines will still face a rather large surge of travelers this year, giving these companies their first big season in well over a year.