Thanksgiving travel surge to test airlines as industry struggles to recover from labor shortages, pandemic

The TSA says it expects 20 million travelers, nearly the same number as in 2019.

American, Southwest and JetBlue have offered staff attendance bonuses to avoid staffing crunches over the holidays.
Airlines and TSA say they’re prepared for the surge of travelers.

Travelers are about to find out whether airlines are prepared for a surge in Thanksgiving passengers.

The Transportation Security Administration expects to screen about 20 million people between Friday and Nov. 28, almost back to 2019 levels. Many of those travelers skipped Thanksgiving trips last year as Covid cases were rising and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against travel during the holiday.

Both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines said the Sunday after Thanksgiving could be their busiest day since before the pandemic. The airlines forecast this week that between Nov. 19 and Nov. 30, they will fly at least 5.6 million and 4.5 million travelers, respectively.

The increase in travelers is good news for one of the pandemic’s most battered industries. But some airlines have at times struggled to fulfill their ambitious schedules, resulting in high numbers of flight cancellations, most recently at American Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

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