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It’s Official: Thanksgiving 2018 Will Be the All-Time Busiest for Air Travel

Nov. 16, 2018
Travel, Travel Credit Cards, Vacations & Trip Planning
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If you are flying somewhere for the Thanksgiving holiday, plan to arrive at the airport early and expect to spend plenty of time waiting in line. Trade group Airlines for America and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) both predict the period between Friday, Nov. 16 and Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, will be the busiest Thanksgiving travel season of all time.

Those who are planning to be among the millions traveling to celebrate the holiday should begin their planning at home. This includes checking your travel credit cards for benefits, enrolling in lounge benefit programs and planning to beat the large crowds.

How many people are expected to travel?

Between Friday, Nov. 16 and Tuesday, Nov. 27, Airlines for America projects 30.6 million travelers will be taking to the skies to reunite with friends and family. The number is nearly 2 million more than last year when 29 million flew during the holiday period.

The increase in passengers also means longer lines at TSA security checkpoints. Between Friday, Nov. 16 and Monday, Nov. 26, the TSA anticipates it will screen over 25 million passengers at checkpoints, an increase of 5% from 2017.

» Learn more: Make the most of your Priority Pass this holiday season

Which days are expected to be the busiest? Both Airlines for America and the TSA are bracing for the Sunday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 25), as between 2.7 and 3.06 million passengers are expected to fly.

How are airlines and TSA preparing for crowds?

To keep travelers moving toward their final destination, airlines and TSA are preparing to increase numbers among their ranks. TSA will deploy 1,200 more officers and 80 passenger screening canine teams across the country.

Technology is also playing a part in the security plan: 16 airports have CT X-ray scanners installed at checkpoints, over 12 more have automated security lines and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is using biometric data to confirm traveler identities.

» Learn more: Skip the line at TSA checkpoints without spending a dime

Airlines are adding up to 137,000 more seats daily during the holiday rush to accommodate the wave of passengers. In addition, Airlines for America says airlines have invested more than $115 billion in flight and ground equipment since 2010 with the goal of improving the customer experience.

What you can do now to prepare for holiday travel crowds?

Those who are planning to travel during the holiday season should start their planning well before they arrive at the airport. To reduce the amount of stress involved in the travel process, follow these tips:

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