LIVE UPDATES: America travels for Thanksgiving

LIVE UPDATES: America travels for Thanksgiving

2:31 PM ET, November 21, 2023

AAA says the Thanksgiving travel period is expected to be the busiest in years

From CNN’s Gregg Wallace and Pete Muntean

Travelers line up to pass through a security checkpoint at Denver International Airport on Monday.

David Zalubowski/AP

This Thanksgiving travel period is expected to be the busiest in several years and set a record for air travel.

In all, AAA expects there will be 55.4 million people traveling, including more than 49 million Americans driving, between the Wednesday before Thanksgiving on Nov. 23 and the Sunday after the holiday. The Transportation Security Administration is preparing to welcome a record number of passengers at US airports during the Thanksgiving travel rush.

AAA’s estimates make this the third busiest Thanksgiving travel period in the more than two decades the organization has tracked. This year is behind only 2019 and 2005, and is about 2% higher than last year.

AAA’s estimates don’t even account for the many Americans who are expected to travel days before the five-day peak period.

“The trend is that people are still traveling in very large numbers,” AAA’s Ixa Diaz told CNN. “After the pandemic, travel demand continues to rise year after year, and this Thanksgiving is no exception.”

The increase in traveler numbers may also be due to new post-Covid business trends. Office workers freed from sitting in a cubicle every day may have the flexibility to make Thanksgiving a week-long trip or back the following week.

“Hybrid schedules and remote schedules have changed everything,” Diaz said. “Now people can leave for vacations at different times.”

Air traffic log: Although departures may be sporadic, Americans will return home en masse on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. This will make it the busiest air travel day of the year, according to airline Cirium. It expects airlines to fly more than 3 million seats on 22,000 flights that day.

AAA, looking at a five-day holiday period, expects Thanksgiving to be the busiest for air travel since 2005, with a roughly 7% increase over last year.

Overall, air carriers such as American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines expect to carry record numbers of passengers over a roughly two-week period including the weekend before Thanksgiving and the Monday or Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Read more about Thanksgiving travel.

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