Travel chaos threatens Thanksgiving with 20 million people expected to fly

A perfect storm is brewing for this year’s busiest travel week, with severe weather forecasts, post-pandemic record levels for travelers and President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate deadline for federal workers, all converging to cause potential chaos.

The Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday it expects to screen about 20 million air passengers during the busy Thanksgiving travel period, breaking post-pandemic records.

But TSA screeners, like all federal employees, face a Monday deadline to show evidence of vaccination for COVID-19, and last month the agency revealed that only 60 percent of its workers have been vaccinated so far.

The TSA insists the deadline will not result in a shortage of airport screeners, but the union representing TSA workers has already publicly pleaded with the Biden administration to postpone the mandate until after the holiday season.

TSA screeners, like all federal employees, face a Monday deadline to show evidence of vaccination for COVID-19, increasing the potential for widespread sick leave and suspensions

TSA screeners, like all federal employees, face a Monday deadline to show evidence of vaccination for COVID-19, increasing the potential for widespread sick leave and suspensions

The TSA said it expects to screen about 20 million air passengers during the busy Thanksgiving travel period, breaking post-pandemic records

The TSA said it expects to screen about 20 million air passengers during the busy Thanksgiving travel period, breaking post-pandemic records

Meanwhile, two harsh weather systems threaten to disrupt the Thanksgiving journey

Meanwhile, two harsh weather systems threaten to disrupt the Thanksgiving journey

In a letter to the White House this month, the president of the TSA’s union, the American Federation of Government Employees, pointed out that the vaccine deadline for federal employees had already been pushed back to January 4th.

“This double standard has caused confusion and concern among federal employees due to inconsistent treatment and inconsistent deadlines for people performing government work in the same environment,” wrote AFGE National President Everett Kelley.

The latest public information on vaccination rates among TSA workers is now more than a month old, so it is still unclear how widespread sick leave and suspensions could be if the mandate is strictly enforced.

On Wednesday, TSA administrator David Pekoske insisted he expects the agency staffing to be sufficient for what is traditionally the busiest travel period of the year.

“We are prepared,” Pekoske told ABC’s Good Morning America.

He said travelers should expect long queues at airports and plan to spend a little more time getting through security.

Pekoske said he did not believe a vaccine mandate coming into force for TSA agents on Monday would have any effect on staff for Thanksgiving next week.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske insisted he expects the agency staffing to be sufficient for what is traditionally the busiest travel period of the year.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske insisted he expects the agency staffing to be sufficient for what is traditionally the busiest travel period of the year.

Travel experts advise air travelers to arrive at the airport at least two hours before their scheduled flight to take into account potential delays

Travel experts advise air travelers to arrive at the airport at least two hours before their scheduled flight to take into account potential delays

“In fact, implementing the mandate will make travel safer and healthier for everyone,” he said. “So we’re seeing a pretty significant increase in the number of our officers being vaccinated, and I’m very confident that there will be no impact on Thanksgiving.”

Travel experts advise air travelers to arrive at the airport at least two hours before their scheduled flight to take into account potential delays in the screening process.

Meanwhile, severe weather can also throw a big wrench into many Americans’ travel plans.

Forecast people with AccuWeather predict that snow may cover the Great Lakes on Sunday, and a possible bombing cyclone will threaten the Atlantic coast a day or two later.

“We could look at a big mess and a real wrench in vacation travel,” said AccuWeather’s chief meteorologist Jon Porter.

Two separate systems are forecast for next week: a winter storm that will develop over the Great Lakes on Sunday, and a separate storm that will develop off the Atlantic coast a day or two later.

Two separate systems are forecast for next week: a winter storm that will develop over the Great Lakes on Sunday, and a separate storm that will develop off the Atlantic coast a day or two later.

The coastal storm could hook into New England and develop into a bomb cyclone

The coastal storm could hook into New England and develop into a bomb cyclone

It could also embrace the coast and move north, mostly affecting coastal towns

It could also embrace the coast and move north, mostly affecting coastal towns

The second storm could hit the densely populated northeastern part of the day before Thanksgiving, which is traditionally the busiest single travel day of the year.

That storm has the potential to develop into a bomb cyclone, a severe weather event that would disrupt the flight massively.

Strong winds, rain and snow all have the potential to further disrupt the airlines’ operations, which have recently struggled due to staff shortages.

“A major storm could significantly exacerbate the operational challenges of airports and airlines, which have plagued the airline industry recently,” Porter said.

Travel group AAA predicts that 53.4 million people will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, a 13 percent increase from 2020, when most travelers drive.

Air travel is set to explode from last year’s levels, with 20 million expected to fly, compared to just 10 million last year.

That would still be slightly below the all-time airline record of 26 million set in 2019.

Flights are set to explode from last year's levels, with 20 million expected to fly, compared to just 10 million last year

Flights are set to explode from last year’s levels, with 20 million expected to fly, compared to just 10 million last year

Delta Air Lines said it expects to fly up to 5.6 million passengers from Friday to November 30, nearly 300 percent above 2020’s 2.2 million Delta passengers during the period, but still below the 6.3 million passengers in the same period in 2019.

United Airlines said it expects more than 4.5 million passengers during the Thanksgiving travel period – about 88 percent of 2019 volume.

United said it added about 700 domestic flights to Thanksgiving week and would fly 87 percent of its domestic flights in 2019 in November.

Last week, the Biden administration lifted travel restrictions for fully vaccinated air travelers from 33 countries, including China, South Africa, Brazil and large parts of Europe.

The United States also last week lifted restrictions on fully vaccinated tourists traveling across borders from Mexico and Canada.

The United States also last week lifted restrictions on fully vaccinated tourists traveling across borders from Mexico and Canada.

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