Thanksgiving air travel is on track to exceed pre-pandemic levels, signaling a busy holiday season for airlines, according to a new analysis.
Bookings for Thanksgiving flights are up 78 percent from last year and 3.2 percent from 2019, according to data from Adobe Digital Insights, which tracked online reservations at major airlines through Nov. 7.
“After a year where many were unable to see their friends and families for Thanksgiving, we are expecting busy airports this month,” said Vivek Pandya, lead analyst at Adobe Digital Insights. “The holiday uptick is also driving up prices online, and consumers should start thinking about Christmas travel pretty soon.”
The analysis found that September and October bookings were 13 and 10 percent lower than pre-pandemic levels, respectively. But air travel has rebounded in recent weeks as COVID-19 cases decline.
AAA said Tuesday that it expects Thanksgiving travel to come within 5 percent of pre-pandemic levels, warning travelers to prepare for long lines at the airport.
The surge of travelers will present a key test for airlines and airports, which have struggled with delays and cancellations this year amid workforce shortages and technical issues. Multiple airlines have cut down on their November schedule to reduce disruptions.
Airlines are also expecting an influx of international travelers after the U.S. lifted its 18-month ban on international flights to the U.S. on Monday. Fully vaccinated international travelers can fly to the U.S. as long as they show proof of vaccination and a recent negative COVID-19 test.