Travelers appear in time for Thanksgiving

Travelers appear in time for Thanksgiving

Dallas Determined to restore Thanksgiving traditions that were interrupted by the pandemic last year, millions of Americans will load up their cars or ride on planes to meet again with friends and family.

The number of air travelers this week is expected to approach or exceed pre-pandemic levels, and the AAA Automobile Club expects 48.3 million people to travel at least 50 miles from their homes during the holiday period, an increase of nearly 4 million from last year despite higher gasoline prices. sharply.

Many are emboldened by the fact that nearly 200 million Americans have now been fully vaccinated. But it also means eliminating concerns about a resurgence of the virus at a time when the US is now reporting nearly 100,000 new infections a day, and hospitals in Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado and Arizona are seeing alarming increases in patients.

The daily average of new cases reported for seven days rose nearly 30% in the past two weeks through Tuesday, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that people who are not immunized should not travel, although it is unclear whether this recommendation has any effect.

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More than 2.2 million passengers flocked through airport checkpoints last Friday, the busiest day since the pandemic that devastated travel early last year. From Friday to Tuesday, the number of travelers in the US more than doubled on the same days last year and less than 9% on the same days in 2019.

At Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Christian Titus was heading to visit extended family in Canada. Titus says he’s spent much of the pandemic indoors but is willing to risk flying on a crowded plane because he misses being around his family. He received a booster potion to increase his protection.

“My mental health improves by being around my family during these times,” he said. “Yes, it is dangerous. But you love these people, so you do what you can to stay safe around them.”

Micah Starling and her husband were excited for the many members of their extended family to meet their 2-year-old son Kayden for the first time at a big Thanksgiving gathering in Linden, New Jersey.

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“We’ve put pictures on Facebook so a lot of them have seen pictures of him, but so they can touch and talk to him, I’m excited about it,” said Starling, 44, of West Point, Mississippi.

For their part, airlines are hoping to avoid a repeat of the massive flight cancellations – more than 2,300 – that have ravaged Southwest and American Airlines at various times last month.

The malfunctions started with bad weather in part of the country and got out of hand. In the past, airlines had enough pilots, flight attendants and other workers to recover from many disruptions within a day or two. But they are finding it more difficult to recover now, exhausted after they prompted thousands of employees to quit when travel collapsed last year.

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American, Southwest, Delta and United companies hired recently, giving airlines and industry watchers hope that flights will remain on track this week.

“Airlines are ready for the holidays,” said Helen Baker, airline analyst at Queen Financial Services. “They’ve reduced the number of flights, the industry has enough pilots, they’re putting more flight attendants through their (training) academies, and they’re paying flight attendants a premium—what I’ll call hazardous job pay—encouraging people not to skimp on work.”

Airlines have little margin of error at the moment. American expected to fill more than 90% of its seats with paying customers on Tuesday. This is a throwback to holiday travel before the pandemic.

“There’s not a lot of room to put people on another flight if something goes wrong,” said Dennis Tajer, a pilot for the airline and a spokesperson for the American Pilots Guild.

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By late afternoon Wednesday on the East Coast, US airlines had canceled fewer than 100 flights, an unusually low number, according to FlightAware. The Federal Aviation Administration has reported that very few airports are affected by significant delays.

“The airport was easy. “It took us five minutes to get through security,” said Ashley Gregory, who returned home to Dallas with her husband and daughter a few days later in Jacksonville, Florida.

“But our bags are delayed,” she added, looking at the empty baggage cart at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Several travelers interviewed at DFW said their flights were full but that people behaved well. The Justice Department said on Wednesday it would prioritize prosecuting passengers who violate federal law on flights — the latest in a series of crackdowns on violence on planes. In the worst incidents – some were videotaped and posted on social media – the hosts were injured.

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Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Pilots’ Union, said he had not received any reports of major passenger incidents for several days.

“I don’t think anything is going to make a video, and that’s a good thing,” Murray said. “This is just another layer of stress, complexity, and fatigue on top of everything else that’s going on.”

At Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport, hundreds of travelers waited in security lines that swarmed in six loops. The stations were packed with people, and with all the seats filled, the travelers sat on the decks while waiting for their flights. There were also long queues for food at a time when some Phoenix airport workers were on strike over a dispute over wages and benefits.

At the Denver airport, Rashida Golden arrives from Houston with her boyfriend and sister on their way to a snowboarding trip for Thanksgiving.

“It’s exciting to travel now, especially with the return of openness, and some sense of life returning to normal,” she said.

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Golden added that she’s not worried about flying, but remains wary when she’s in a “group of people.”

She said, “As long as we wear masks, I did my part. The rest is to enjoy my vacation.”

For vacation travelers by car, the biggest pain is likely to be higher prices at the pump. The national average for gasoline on Tuesday was $3.40 a gallon, according to the AAA, more than 60% more than last Thanksgiving.

These prices may be one of the many factors that discourage some vacation travelers. In a survey by Gasbuddy, which tracks pump prices, about half of the app’s users who responded said the higher prices would affect their travel plans this week. About two in five said they don’t take many trips for a variety of reasons.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the US Strategic Reserve to help lower energy costs, in coordination with other major energy consuming nations. The US measure is aimed at global energy markets, but is also aimed at helping Americans deal with rising inflation and higher prices ahead of Thanksgiving and the winter holidays.

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The price at the pump was a bit shocking for Tiye Reddy, who traveled to California from Tennessee and borrowed his friend’s truck for some sightseeing. Gas worked $5 a gallon at Chevron in Alameda, and filling the truck cost $100.

“We didn’t travel last year because of COVID restrictions and everything,” Reddy said. “We’re confident enough … with the vaccine and where things are now with the virus that, you know, we’ve felt so comfortable traveling.”

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Associated Press authors Ted Schaffrey and Seth Winig in Newark, New Jersey, Terry Chia in Alameda, Calif., Brian Skoloff in Phoenix, and Thomas Peppert in Denver contributed to this report.

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David Koenig can be reached at twitter.com/airlinewriter

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.



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