U.S. Thanksgiving 2023 – Major Airlines Gear Up For Record-Breaking Passenger Numbers

U.S. airlines and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are gearing up for another busy Thanksgiving, with an expected 30 million passengers due to the skies to spend the holiday with friends and family.

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
A record number of passengers will hit U.S. airports during Thanksgiving 2023 © qwesy qwesy on Wikimedia Commons

Preparations Under Way For Thanksgiving 2023

Major airlines have been making preparations to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible for both seasoned travellers and once-a-year fliers during Thanksgiving 2023 as unprecedented demand builds as the holiday period gets underway.

Airline industry group Airlines for America, which represents major names such as American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, among others, predicts that nearly 29.9 million passengers will travel between US airports over the period of 1727 November, an increase of 9% on the same period last year. Statistically, the three busiest travel days of the holiday period are the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after the holiday.

The “big three” U.S. airlines will take various steps to ensure smooth operations during Thanksgiving 2023. United Airlines, for example, plans to operate more than 3,900 flights per day and add more than 550,000 seats to meet demand. Meanwhile, American Airlines will be utilising its in-house Hub Efficiency Analytics Tool (HEAT) to help manage possible weather-related disruptions and adjust its smart gating operations, and eligible passengers travelling with Delta Air Lines at the airline’s major hubs in Atlanta and Detroit will be able to take advantage of the Delta Digital ID scheme, enabling them to travel through selected airports without once having to show their physical ID.

Airlines are particularly keen to avoid the chaos seen on Labour Day Weekend last year when more than 1,000 flights in and out of the USA were either delayed or cancelled owing to severe weather conditions, staffing shortages and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ground stops. A number of airlines were heavily criticised at the time for poor communication with passengers and the lack of assistance offered to help passengers book new flights and claim compensation.

TSA-approved food items
The TSA has issued guidance on different types of luggage-permissible food for Thanksgiving 2023 © Transportation Security Administration

Leaky Gravy? That’s Not Gonna Fly

The TSA has announced that it expects to screen over 30 million passengers during the 12-day Thanksgiving holiday period, starting on Friday 17th, until Tuesday 28th November, with the number of passengers expected to be screened on the Sunday following the holiday predicted to hit nearly 3 million passengers.

The agency has also issued guidance on which Thanksgiving foods can be brought through TSA checkpoints, such as baked goods, meats and fresh vegetables, and items that should be packed securely in passengers’ checked-in luggage, including… pots and jars of homemade gravy. Although most people would probably not want to transport spillable gravy or similar sauces in their hand luggage, even the TSA has to issue guidance on such matters.

Travellers looking for additional guidance during Thanksgiving 2023 can also download the free myTSA app, which offers helpful tips on which items are permissible in hand and checked-in luggage, or ask questions on Twitter (now known as X), Facebook Messenger or by texting “Travel” to AskTSA (275-872).

American Coins
Inflation-busting price rises are hitting consumers around the world © Paulo O on Wikimedia Commons

Inflationary Pressures For Both Travellers And The Aviation Industry

According to data from the U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics, airfares dropped by around 13% in the year to October, meaning that flights during Thanksgiving 2023 will be relatively cheaper.

Despite lower prices, however, travellers will need to consider whether the such  airfares will offset the inflation-busting accommodation and food prices they will need to pay for their Thanksgiving celebrations. Airlines, on the other hand, will need to make a concerted effort to attract financially constrained travellers as the aviation industry grapples with inflationary pressures, including fuel price rises, fluctuating demand and wider staffing issues.

And despite the aforementioned measures taken by major airlines to prepare for the busy holiday period, whether they will be able to avoid the travel chaos seen in previous years… well, the proof will most certainly be in the pudding.

Are you travelling to meet family and friends for Thanksgiving 2023? If so, what are you most looking forward to during the holiday period? Let us know in the comments!

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Rachel Dunster
Rachel Dunster
Aviation Reporter
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