US airports and airlines are bracing for a surge in passenger traffic ahead of the pandemic over the Thanksgiving holiday.

The number of travelers is expected to reach its highest level in three years. Air travel is up nearly 8% from 2021, with 4.5 million Americans flying to their Thanksgiving destinations this year. That’s an increase of more than 330,000 travelers and nearly 99% of 2019’s volume, according to AAA.

According to data from Hopper, a travel booking app, more than half of Americans plan to travel this year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, with 70% of travelers planning to visit family and friends. Here’s what to expect and how to prepare.

Expect busy airports and long lines at TSA checkpoints during rush hour

The result is huge crowds at airports. And that means it’s showtime for airports and airlines to show they’ve recovered from last summer’s chaos.

If you flew last summer, you probably had some accidents or know someone who got into trouble because of a canceled flight or a missed connection due to a delayed departure. Long lines at security added to the chaos.

According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the three busiest days during the Thanksgiving travel season are typically the Tuesday and Wednesday leading up to Thanksgiving and the Sunday following the holidays. The TSA could screen up to 2.5 million passengers at checkpoints across the country on Wednesday and potentially exceed 2.5 million passengers on Sunday, Nov. 27.

That wouldn’t exactly match the heavier volume of passenger screening on the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2019, where Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) screened nearly 2.9 million passengers at checkpoints across the country. On the same day in 2021, transmission system operators screened nearly 2.5 million passengers nationwide.

However, now with remote working, more people have flexibility with their travel dates and can avoid travel congestion, which may provide some relief, Aixa Diaz, a spokeswoman for AAA, told Yahoo Money.

Tips for smooth holiday flights

It never hurts to be prepared in the event of an accident by downloading your airline’s mobile app to your phone for easy access to your flight information and updates – gate information, flight status flight, baggage tracking, automatic rebooking and more.

Be patient. Although the TSA announced in a press release last week that it was “prepared for more travelers at airport security checkpoints this holiday season,” travelers should still plan for long TSA lines during peak hours. peak and arrive early for flights. If possible, avoid checked baggage to give you more leeway if flights are delayed or you need to rebook.

According to flight-tracking company FlightAware, around a quarter of US airline flights from Friday morning to Sunday evening were delayed by around 50 minutes each day last weekend, although only a fraction of flights – less than 1% – or 556 flights, were cancelled. “We are excited to see the return of demand,” US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said during an event at Chicago’s O’Hare airport on Monday. “I wouldn’t say we’re out of the woods… But I’m cautiously optimistic about a strong start to this week.”

Time can be the wild card, especially on the way back home. Forecasters aren’t calling for winter blasts or wet Thanksgiving days for most of the country, but bad weather could be a spoiler in the eastern US as of Friday.