If you’re one of the millions of Americans traveling by air for Thanksgiving this year expect to be part of a record-setting crowd.
This year will likely be the busiest Thanksgiving ever for air travel, according to projections from the Transportation Security Administration.
And the holiday rush is getting off to on earlier start than ever before.
“We have started to see a trend in which the Thanksgiving holiday period actually begins the Friday before Thanksgiving,” TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein says to USA TODAY’s Today in the Sky blog. “In this instance that would mean Friday, Nov. 16.”
That Friday, the one that falls a full week prior to Thanksgiving, is now projected by the TSA to be one of the three busiest travel days of the entire holiday period, which extends from Nov. 16 through to Nov. 25.
The others are Nov. 21 – the Wednesday before Thanksgiving – and Sunday, Nov. 25.
It’s that Sunday that’s expected to be the busiest overall, says TSA’s Farbstein, “because so many people come home from their trips on the Sunday after the holiday.”
Still, travelers should be prepared for crowds throughout the period.
TSA says that, on average, it screens 2.1 million to 2.2. million passengers and crew nationwide per day. Those numbers are likely to swell by 25% or more on many days around Thanksgiving.
"In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, TSA officers will screen approximately 2.5 to 2.6 million passengers and crew members through security checkpoints," Farbstein says. "On Sunday, TSA expects to screen in the neighborhood of 2.7 million passengers per day."
The big exception is Thanksgiving Day. Though some travelers try to get home on the holiday, it is historically a light travel day overall. Most U.S. carriers run reduced schedules on Thanksgiving, especially during the afternoon and evening.
Travel on the Friday after Thanksgiving also is usually light.
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