No major problems during busy Thanksgiving week, but will it last?

Nov 29, 2021

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It’s the Sunday of the long Thanksgiving weekend and by all accounts, domestic travel has gone off more smoothly than expected. Despite fears that labor shortages, walkouts, bad weather, security issues or out-of-control passengers could disrupt travel, no major snafus have been reported.

Related: Brace yourself: It may be a rough holiday travel season — but not for the reason you think

Our collective breath-holding has worked, and if that isn’t something we should be grateful for, I don’t know what is.(It is still early afternoon on the West Coast as I write this, so lets not get too gleeful.)

In fact, there were no operational meltdowns like the one that hit Southwest back in October or the one that hit American Airlines later that same month.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, some 2.2 million travelers passed through airport checkpoints on Saturday. That doesn’t quite reach the 2.6 million number from 2019. But it is several runways ahead of the 964,000 from 2020.

Today is set to be the busiest since the pandemic started with the TSA expected to screen 2.4 million passengers today alone.

Related: Be prepared for holiday travel challenges

According to the TSA, the busiest days during the Thanksgiving travel period are Tuesday and Wednesday before turkey day and the Sunday that follows. In fact, the largest volume of travelers ever recorded by the TSA was the nearly 3 million that crossed through its checkpoints the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2019.

Thanksgiving Meal on a Table
(Photo by By Alexander Raths/Shutterstock)

That was a few months before the world would be upended by the pandemic.

The highest numbers reported by the TSA thus far this Thanksgiving were on Wednesday, at 2.3 million. In comparison, the day before Thanksgiving in 2020 (the holiday fell on Nov. 26 last year) saw a paltry 560,902 travelers crossing through security.

Related: 5 things to do to prepare for holiday travel

Is holiday travel on its way back to meeting or exceeding traditional numbers? It’s too soon to tell. Many still making their way home from warm gatherings with family and friends may be convinced that the pandemic is all but over. They may not have been watching the news.

The specter of a new, possibly more contagious variant of the virus has led to global restrictions and strict new travel bans in the last 24 hours. Travel may have taken one step forward only to take two steps back.

The next few days will tell.

The U.S. will ban arrivals of foreign nationals from eight southern African countries starting tomorrow. Israel and Morocco have closed their borders entirely to foreigners. Cases of the new Omicron variant have been confirmed in the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, France, Canada and South Africa.

Related: Visitors to the UK must take PCR test after arrival: Omicron cases confirmed

U.S. health officials speculated on Sunday talk shows that the variant could well already be here.

For now, let’s focus on the good news that Thanksgiving was a travel success. Let’s hope we see similar clear skies during the Christmas holidays.

Featured photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

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