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Record Number of Americans Predicted to Fly This Thanksgiving

by Aoife O’Riordan

Nov 22, 2023

© Kirk Fisher | Dreamstime.com

eFlyer Lead

In addition to recent snowstorms and thunderstorms sweeping the country, the Department of Transportation prepares for record Thanksgiving air travel. The Transportation Security Administration predicts a record 30 million air travelers over the 12-day Thanksgiving period, which began Nov. 17 and lasts through Nov. 28.

In 2022, about 27.5 million people traveled during this same period, according to Airlines for America.

As a result, U.S. authorities have taken a number of measures to reduce delays and other disruptions expected this season. Airlines continue to face staff shortages in wake of the holiday rush. Many airlines suffer captain and air traffic controller shortages. Particularly in the New York region, a lack of air traffic controllers has already caused many flight delays and cancellations this year.

In response to shortages and increased travel, the FAA aims to hire 1,800 new air traffic controllers in 2023, an increase of 300 from last year. The increase, however, requires approval from Congress.

TSA also anticipates a record number of people screened through security checkpoints. During this 12-day Thanksgiving travel period, for instance, TSA at Denver International Airport expects to screen more than 840,000 passengers. Nationally, TSA expects to screen 2.7 million passengers Nov. 22 and 2.9 million passengers Nov. 26. In fact, Nov. 26 is expected to be the busiest travel day for TSA ever. For as seamless a TSA experience as possible, see here for TSA tips when traveling this Thanksgiving.

This year, the FAA expects 73.3 percent of driving delays to be due to weather. It’s also estimated 15.1 percent of delays will be from volume of travelers. On the good side, flight cancellations trend lower in 2023 than in previous years, according to the FAA. Additionally, the DOT launched an interactive Customer Service Dashboard to provide travelers with up-to-date airline customer service policies on controllable delays and cancellations.

The FAA estimates than 49,000 flights are scheduled for Nov. 22, 24 and 26.

The record rush of holiday travelers will test the current U.S. aviation system struggling to keep up with demand. That said, federal regulators insist the system is ready for the holiday season.

“While we don’t control the weather, we’re doing everything in our power to keep flights safe and keep cancellations and delays low this Thanksgiving,” said Mike Whitaker, administrator, FAA.

Are you traveling by plane or car this Thanksgiving? Do you expect to experience any delays? Do you have a Thanksgiving travel horror story? Tell us your thoughts. Email us at [email protected]. Please include your full name and location.

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