The days around the Thanksgiving holiday have earned a reputation as the busiest travel days of the year, but is this status really justified?
And if so, what can you do to streamline the travel process?
Here, we unpack some of the common myths about Thanksgiving travel that may be making you wary and give you the low-down on how to better manage your airport travel around the holiday.
Received wisdom has it that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (this year November 22) is the busiest travel day of the year at US airports. While it’s certainly busy around the holiday – data shows that last year more than 28.5 million people took to the skies – the bulk of this is spread over a number of days.
The busiest day actually tends to fall on the Sunday following Thanksgiving, with almost 3 million traveling by air in 2017. However, The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that the busiest day for air travel throughout the whole of last year was actually in the height of summer, falling on July 14.
Another common myth is that flights will inevitably be delayed due to passenger congestion, putting many travelers off booking flights. Actually, The Bureau of Transportation Statistics show that in 2017, 89% of Thanksgiving flights arrived on time compared to 80% for the rest of the year.
You are in fact much more likely to be delayed during December and January, when adverse winter weather conditions often affect flights. Statistics show that in 2017, January 7 had by far the most delays, with only 45.36% of flights arriving on time. In 2016, December 21 fared even worse with only 39.88% of flights making on-time arrivals that day.
While most people will be traveling to spend time with family and friends during the week of Thanksgiving, the week preceding it is actually one of the busiest for business travel.
Analysis of business travel trends by Concur found that Wednesday and Thursday of the week prior to Thanksgiving are the busiest. The data showed that in 2016, these dates accounted for 58% more corporate travelers than on average weekdays. There was also a significant jump in the number of business travelers who take infrequent trips flying at this time of year, up by almost 20% in October and November.
If you can, delay your business trip until early December or January when business travel volume will be greatly reduced.
While it is useful to debunk some of these misconceptions, traveling around Thanksgiving will inevitably involve larger crowds of passengers, longer wait times, and increased airfare costs. But don’t let that put you off traveling altogether.
If you are planning to fly this year, here’s how to ease your way through the airport experience:
Most airlines now offer a mobile app for flight tracking and making updates to bookings. You’ll get the latest flight status information and find out in advance if there is any disruption.
If your flight has been delayed or cancelled due to circumstances such as adverse weather conditions, you can also rebook using most apps. This will save you time standing in long lines at the booking desk or spending valuable time on the phone waiting to speak to a customer services agent.
One of the major factors that can disrupt your journey and slow you down through the airport is not being clued-up on security regulations. Even if you are a regular flier, you may find that there have been updates to the rules since you last traveled, so be prepared and check in advance.
For example, as of 2017 all electronics larger than a standard smartphone need to be removed from your carry-on luggage. Make sure you have them in an accessible location so you can remove them quickly and easily. If you are traveling with a smart bag you will also need to make sure the lithium-ion batteries are removable. If they aren’t, you may not be allowed to bring it on board as these are now considered a potential fire hazard.
Allowing plenty of time at the airport is always sound advice, however you need to overestimate for Thanksgiving travel. Aim to arrive around 60 minutes before you usually would. This will give you more time through the check-in and security processes so you can avoid missing your flight.
If you don’t make your flight it could be particularly difficult to get yourself an alternative option. Seats are in much higher demand at this time of year, so don’t take the chance.
Remember that there will be lots of people who are not regular fliers jetting off on their travels, too. This can mean delays through security, boarding, and at check-in. Just be prepared to deal with a slower process than you may be used to, or avoid the hassle entirely with EmpireCLS’ premium Airport Greeters Program.
Whatever precautions you take, travel over Thanksgiving is likely to be busier than usual. But your time is precious, and you don’t want to begin your journey with unnecessary hassle before you’ve even got off the ground.
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Your time is valuable. Don’t waste it battling through crowds and waiting in line at the airport.
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