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Airline passengers experience ease on busiest travel day of the year

Tuesday was expected to be the busiest Thanksgiving holiday travel day with more than 48,000 flights taking off across the country.

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — Thousands of people boarded planes across the country Tuesday on the busiest travel day before and after Thanksgiving, the Federal Aviation Administration said, with 48,082 scheduled flights.

Airlines have been preparing for this holiday season after a summer often plagued with delays and cancellations because of staffing shortages.

Credit: FOX61
Delta Air Lines says the company has taken steps to "ensure a reliable holiday travel experience."

“There were a couple of delays, especially for me over the summer. I think I took 10 flights,” Aidan Shaw, a student at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, said. “I think I got two flights delayed and one canceled. It was a lot. But I think it’s better now.”

Delta Air Lines told FOX61 in a statement they have focused on hiring and training over the past several months, increased boarding time, added buffer time in crew schedules, and adjusted the airline’s schedules to “ensure a reliable holiday travel experience.”

“Over the past several months, Delta has taken meaningful and significant steps to stabilize the operation and provide its customers with the premium experience they expect,” a spokesperson said. “In the months leading up to Thanksgiving – September, October, and November to date – Delta has completed more than 99% of scheduled flights.”

Southwest Airlines has also increased staffing levels by nearly 16,000 this year. They operate nearly 3,900 flights daily, on peak days. 

Travelers at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks Tuesday have noticed the smoother flights.

“We had no delays at all. Everything was right on time. It worked out well. I was surprised, to say the least,” Thomas Hughes, flying in from Austin, said.

Families are looking forward to reconnecting and celebrating the holiday with loved ones. Shaw, traveling to Seattle, says he’s excited to be with family.

“I look forward to spending time with my dad talking about each other’s stories. How we’ve been doing,” he said. “I’m looking forward to spending time with my family. I haven’t seen them in a couple of months and going to do some skating, going to have some fun.”

Hughes is looking forward to seeing his 5-month-old granddaughter, saying it’s nice to get together. The holiday season is also a time when college students return home for a short while like Dominique Smith, a freshman at Mount Holyoke College just outside Springfield.

“Seeing my mom and dad and all my friends, and just sharing all the stories that we’ve had since we all went to college and came back, that will be really fun to see them again and just catch up,” she said before boarding her Miami-bound flight. 

Even though travel has smoothed out, Smith is still cautious about possible delays or cancelations.

Credit: FOX61
Bradley International Airport 'Welcome Home to Bradley' sign.

“Which is why I’m leaving home a little bit earlier to catch the rush, of course, but other than that we just have to pray,” she said.

Alisa Sisic with the Connecticut Airport Authority recommends people arrive at least an hour and a half before take-off, especially if they need help at the ticket counter. She says 90,000 people have flown out or are flying out of the airport from last week to Sunday, which is higher than in 2020 but still lower than pre-pandemic levels.

“We’ve been working very closely with our airline partners and other stakeholders to prepare for the busy holiday season,” she said. “I think there’s been a lot of opportunity since the summer for us to see what improvements can be made and, naturally, the airlines have been also looking and adjusting schedules, hiring more people.”

The FAA says there are a lot of flights across the East coast as well as popular cities like Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Dallas. The administration expects the next busiest travel day to be on Sunday with 46,790 people taking to the sky as they return home. That’s compared to 23,626 on Thursday.

“Everything was smooth. It was really smooth. I don’t see any problems going back,” Colin Carson, who flew in from Indianapolis to visit his daughter, said. “We talk all the time, but it’s not the same.”


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