What Challenges Do America’s Airlines Face During Thanksgiving Week?

Thanksgiving week always is a far busier period of the year. In 2019, TSA screened over 26 million passengers and crew members during the festive weekend. Even during the significant downtime last year, Thanksgiving offered a glimmer of hope for the US travel market. Sunday, November 29th, 2020 was the busiest day of travel in the nation since March that year. Almost 1.2 million passengers flew that day. So, with the aviation industry still transitioning in this era of recovery, carriers are having to deal with several challenges this week.

American Airlines
Airlines in the United States were forced to cancel thousands of flights due to challenging weather, staff shortages, and technological issues – so they will be keen to avoid similar issues during the Thanksgiving period. Photo: Getty Images

A jump in demand

To prepare for the rush, airlines have been providing incentives to their staff during the holiday season. Carriers such as American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and JetBlue are all offering rewards for those working during the period, including Thanksgiving.

The numbers are already a showing significant boost. On Wednesday, more than 2.3 million people passed through US airports. This figure is the highest since February 2020. However, this increase in activity is far from over. After the population catches up with their family over turkey and stuffing today, they will all be heading home at the weekend.

Communicating with passengers

Airlines haven’t only been preparing internally. They are also looking to work with passengers to offer a seamless experience and reduce the chances of disruption. After all, external factors, such as harsh weather often play a part in disrupting operations.

“One of the best things you can do is to simply be prepared. Delta teams have been working throughout the pandemic to make it easier for customers to navigate changing travel requirements and day-of-travel challenges,” Delta Chief Health Officer Dr. Henry Ting shared in a company statement. 

“I encourage anyone traveling with us over the holidays to get to know the resources our teams have made available.”

Airlines are highlighting the utilization of technology to optimize the journeys during this busy time. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Dr. Ting notes that passengers should download the Fly Delta Fly app to have better control of their journey and smoothly plan, book, and manage their travel. This app allows passengers to check crucial information, such as boarding information, baggage location, and upgrade status.

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A sensitive climate

Additionally, travelers are encouraged to check for travel requirements, arrive early, review TSA guidelines, and enroll in CLEAR and TSA PreCheck to add greater efficiency to the journey. Carriers are also reminding passengers to wear their face masks amid the federal mandate.

There have been numerous on board incidents involving masks, leading to crew assaults and passenger fines over the last year and a half. Thus, airlines are encouraging passengers to act gracefully to avoid disruption to operations during this Thanksgiving period.

Plane Silhouette New York
There are concerns from airline staff and unions about being overworked amid the ongoing travel requirements. Photo: Getty Images

The weather is looking to be a lot calmer this time around. However, storms will naturally occur in some parts of the US. Following a tough period of adapting to the return of travel when it comes to staffing, the environment, and air traffic control, airlines should be far better prepared to handle the increase in demand this holiday season.

What are your thoughts about how airlines are preparing for the Thanksgiving rush? What do you make of the overall efforts across the industry? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.