This past Friday, November 17, marked the official start of the Thanksgiving travel period, a 12-day stretch during which the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) anticipates that it will screen a record 30 million passengers this year. And unfortunately, the period that typically sees the busiest travel days of the year comes just as a major storm is gaining momentum across much of the eastern half of the United States.
But according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and newly appointed FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker, the traveling public shouldn’t anticipate delays and cancellations on the level that we saw during the holiday season last year.
“Winter weather may challenge airlines in the next few weeks,” Secretary Buttigieg said during a joint media briefing about holiday travel on Monday. But, he added, “while we can’t control the weather, we will be using every tool at our disposal to keep cancellations and delays as low as possible.”
The Transportation Secretary reminded travelers to file a complaint with the DOT in the event that they are having trouble getting a refund or proper compensation for a delayed or canceled flight. “If an airline lets its passengers down, we are here to hold that airline accountable,” he said.
Buttigieg said that the DOT will also be working to ensure that when weather or traffic causes a disruption, commercial flights that were already scheduled to take off first will not get bumped back by private flights. “You won’t have to wait on someone who just hopped on a private jet for a golf trip cutting in line ahead of your passenger aircraft. Your flight to go see your family will be the priority,” he said.
For its part, the TSA, which issued a release on how it is preparing for what it expects will be the busiest holiday season ever, said its goal is to keep TSA standard security screening line wait times to under 30 minutes and TSA PreCheck lanes to under 10 minutes.
AAA is projecting that 55.4 million American will travel at least 50 miles or more between November 22 (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving) and Sunday, November 26, the third-highest Thanksgiving travel forecast since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2000 (the top two years were 2005 followed by 2019).
And after a brief lull for a few weeks, we will launch right into the peak holiday travel periods that surround Christmas and New Year from mid-December through early January, a timeframe that last year was defined by cataclysmic weather across the country and an epic meltdown at Southwest Airlines.
“Last year was shambolic. Nearly 5.5 percent of nationwide flights in December  got canceled, including multiple days around Christmas when two-thirds of Southwest flights were
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