Thanksgiving travel expected to hit pre-pandemic levels

FILE - Two airplane pilots pass by a line of passengers while waiting at a security check-in...
FILE - Two airplane pilots pass by a line of passengers while waiting at a security check-in line at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.(AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar, File)
Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 9:56 AM EST
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Close to 3 million more Floridians are expected on the roadways for Thanksgiving. AAA predicts a big rebound after a dip in 2020 because of the pandemic.

“Last year we saw a pretty sizable drop in the number of people who were traveling during Thanksgiving, and this year, these numbers look a lot more in line with what we would expect to see during a travel season,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins.

He says normal traffic levels and long lines at the airport are to be expected too.

The biggest sign we are bouncing back is the magnitude of people flying. According to AAA, flights in the U.S. have increased by 80% as compared to this time frame last year.

Even more people here on the Suncoast are flying. “Our traffic is up 150% over last year, so we’re beating the AAA predictions as well,” said Sarasota Bradenton International Airport President Rick Piccolo.

While the increased passenger traffic is great for the airports, more flights and more travel also means more chances of cancellations and overbooked flights.

“One of the biggest reasons we see cancellations and delays is inclement weather,” Jenkins said.

Another reason is the lack of people power. Airline and airport labor shortages may cause cancellations, such as the issues experienced by American Airlines and Southwest Airlines just a few weeks ago.

At least David Donnells showed up to work. A retired Cincinnati police officer, he now directs traffic at SRQ airport; he joined the team during the pandemic.

Donnells says he’s noticed an influx of people coming to the airport recently. “It’s just expanding. Parking has been insane! They’ve got a few more parking lots to handle the additional traffic, so it’s getting busy,” he said.

Adding to the influx of travelers, the U.S. lifted international travel restrictions earlier this month. “[I’m] starting to see Canada plates and people driving their cars down and having them driven down,” he said.

With open borders, fewer people working in airlines and airports, and a big anticipated holiday rebound, what should you do to ensure safe and efficient travel?

AAA says if you are driving, fuel up or charge up depending on your car. Map out gas or charging stations along your route.

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