Thanksgiving travel rush tests U.S. carriers

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CHICAGO, Nov 24 (Reuters) – Flights and airports across the United States are expected to be packed on Wednesday as millions of Americans fly to visit their families for Thanksgiving holiday.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expects to screen about 20 million air passengers during the travel period, compared with nearly 26 million in the same period in 2019. On Monday, the TSA screened 2.1 million U.S. air passengers, the fifth consecutive day with checkpoint volume topping 2 million.

The holiday weekend is a test for carriers after a spate of flight cancellations marred travel over the summer. One in five Americans are concerned about delays and cancellations, according to a new American Pecans/YouGov survey.

But with the weather expected to remain calm for Thanksgiving on Thursday, airlines are sounding confident.

“We’re staffed and ready to get our customers to where they need to go safely, reliably and enjoyably,” a Delta Air Lines spokesperson said.

The Atlanta-based carrier has hired 8,000 new employees including 1,500 reservation agents. American Airlines has recalled 1,800 flight attendants this month, while Southwest Airlines has hired more than 4,500 employees in the past few months.

American, Southwest and JetBlue are also offering bonuses, higher pay and other incentives to ensure they have enough workers. Southwest has cut flight schedules to enhance ontime performance and bolstered its customer relations department.

The Thanksgiving week is shaping up to be the busiest travel week in two years as rising COVID-19 vaccination rates have made Americans more confident to travel again.

Travel group AAA estimates 53.4 million people will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020, with air travel recovering to about 91% of pre-pandemic levels.

Rising gas prices are the biggest concern of American this holiday season, the YouGov survey found.

(Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Editing by Stephen Coates)

Photo – Passengers head to the AirTrain after arriving at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in San Francisco, USA. EPA-EFE/JOHN G. MABANGLO

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