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Holiday weekend brings large crowds to US airports

April 15, 2022
5 min read
Holiday weekend brings large crowds to US airports
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A combination of warm weather, spring break and the Easter holiday are turning this weekend into one of the busiest travel weekends in a couple of years. It’s a weekend where travelers are hoping for the best after two straight weekends filled with cancellations and delays brought on by mounting weather and staffing challenges.

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The holiday travel surge has begun as travelers got an early start on the weekend. Transportation Security Administration agents screened more than 2.3 million passengers at checkpoints on Thursday, making it the second-busiest air travel day of the entire pandemic, trailing only the Sunday after Thanksgiving 2021.

It wasn’t just Thursday. Passenger traffic at U.S. airports Monday through Thursday of this week exceeded the four days leading into Thanksgiving last fall by millions of people.

Airports in the Northeast have been busy for a number of reasons. At Boston Logan International Airport, travelers are feeling the impact of not just Easter and spring break, but also Patriots' Day and the Boston Marathon on Monday.

It's a busy weekend on the tarmac at Boston Logan International Airport (BOS). (Photo by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy)

Logan Airport officials told TPG Friday that the airport saw its busiest day on Thursday since 2019, with 63,000 passengers departing. New England airports as a whole set a pandemic record Thursday as well.

“We’ve had a busy few days,” airport spokesperson Jennifer Mehigan told TPG in an email Friday, encouraging passengers to arrive early and take public transportation to the airport when possible as parking lots fill up.

It’s a similar story across much of the U.S., and one the TSA expects will continue as we head into the summer months now that many destinations are relaxing COVID-19 restrictions and pent-up travel demand is leading to a surge in travel.

“We’re going to see an increase in passenger volume all throughout the country,” TSA New England spokesperson Daniel Velez told TPG in an interview Friday.

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While the agency continues to advise passengers to get to the airport between 90 minutes and two hours ahead of domestic flights, Velez said, right now it’s particularly important flyers arrive early for flights departing between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. “It’s usually good to get there as soon as you can and be ready," he said.

Related: 10 ways to get through airport security faster

Hopes for a smoother weekend

With Fridays and Sundays generally the busiest travel days nationwide in recent months, it’s likely passenger traffic could well exceed even Thursday’s heavy volume. As passengers head out, they are, no doubt, hoping for a smoother weekend than what we saw the last couple of weekends.

Citing a combination of bad weather, air traffic control delays and staffing challenges, airlines canceled or delayed thousands of flights over two weekends, leaving passengers waiting in airports for hours on end.

Related: Here’s what to do if your flight is delayed or canceled

JetBlue faced issues each of the past two weekends, and revealed to TPG last Sunday that it was reducing its schedule through June as it works to bring more staff on board. But the airline warned more cancellations were likely. Alaska Airlines also announced a schedule reduction this month as it works to deal with an ongoing pilot shortage.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Last weekend’s issues had a profound impact on travelers in Boston, where JetBlue operates a major hub. On Friday, Mehigan had hopes that this weekend would run more smoothly.

“We have spoken to our airline partners in preparation for this upcoming week,” she said, noting JetBlue had schedule adjustments planned, as well as intentions of “better communicating to passengers.” Mehigan noted Logan Airport will also have more staff on hand to assist passengers. “We will continue to watch things closely and will let the public know if we are seeing any issues,” she said.

Fortunately, the long weekend appears to be off to a fairly smooth start. According to data from FlightAware, as of Friday afternoon, no airline had canceled more than 7% of its schedule (Alaska canceled 54 flights Friday, which is 7% of its schedule).

Featured image by (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
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  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.