CHICAGO, Nov. 24 (Reuters) – Airports and commercial airlines across the United States on Wednesday recorded one of their busiest days since before the pandemic, as millions of Americans flocked to visit loved ones for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Thanksgiving eve generally tends to be the busiest day for traveling. This year, however, working from home has allowed many people to travel early and avoid the last-day hustle and bustle.
“So far so good,” said Lani Emanuel, who was traveling from Los Angeles to Seattle to see her daughter. “It was a bit difficult to find parking, but it doesn’t seem too busy yet.”
At Newark Airport, too, passengers didn’t have to wait long to go through security checkpoints. Some restaurants at the airport were not crowded either.
Still, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has advised passengers to arrive early to allow more time for security. U.S. carriers have also increased capacity, anticipating higher demand on the eve of Thanksgiving, data from Cirium showed.
Thanksgiving marks the start of what was shaping up to be the busiest holiday season in two years. Rising COVID-19 vaccination rates have made people more confident about travel, leading to an increase in bookings.
U.S. consumers are also entering the holiday season with full purchasing power, thanks to a heap of still significant savings from several rounds of pandemic government reliefs and now double-digit one-year pay increases. on the other as companies compete for scarce workers. (For a graph on food and accommodation service spending, click: https://tmsnrt.rs/3CLC7m9)
Data released on Wednesday showed aggregate consumer spending rose 1.3% more than expected in October. Spending on big-ticket items like automobiles pushed the overall figure up, but data also showed a widespread increase in spending on services like travel and restaurants that had been sharply cut during much of the COVID pandemic. -19. (For a graph on leisure spending, click: https://tmsnrt.rs/3DPgHWx)
Americans shelled out record amounts for recreation, dining out, trips away from home and travel abroad last month. (For a graph on overseas travel expenses, click: https://tmsnrt.rs/2ZiM7pi)
The TSA plans to screen approximately 20 million air passengers during the Thanksgiving travel period, the highest number since 2019, when nearly 26 million Americans were on the move around that time. On Tuesday, the agency screened about 2.21 million U.S. air passengers, the sixth day in a row with a checkpoint volume exceeding 2 million.
TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers said the agency hired 6,000 new agents this year and was well-staffed to cope with the increase in passenger numbers.
“So staffing, while we’re hiring, won’t slow people down this holiday season,” Dankers said.
The holiday weekend is also a test for carriers after a wave of flight cancellations that marred travel over the summer. One in five Americans is concerned about delays and cancellations, according to a U.S. Pecans / YouGov survey.
The carriers have increased their workforce and offered bonuses and other incentives to employees to ensure they have sufficient resources.
“We have staff and are ready to get our customers where they need to go safely, reliably and pleasantly,” said a spokesperson for Delta Air Lines (DAL.N).
The expected calm weather for Thanksgiving should also help avoid disruption.
The American railroad Amtrak also expects an increase in passenger volumes. A company spokesperson said some trains were already near full capacity.
Travel group AAA estimates that a total of 53.4 million people will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020, with air travel falling to about 91% of pre-pandemic levels.
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