NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Thanksgiving holiday travel week is already off to a busy start as numbers are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels.
“We’ve really been planning I’d say the last 20 months for this surge in travel,” said United Airlines Spokesperson Nicole Carriere. “We’re expecting this to be our busiest week since before the pandemic.”
People lined up at Nashville International Airport Tuesday morning to travel all over the country, including Josh Carter who was on his way to South Florida.
“If it’s necessary for me to see family or for anybody to be able to see family, I think it’s worth it. You can’t get that time back so I’m okay with the restrictions as long as I can see my people,” Carter said. “A lot of my family down there I haven’t seen in two years. I’m surprising them down there for Thanksgiving. They don’t know I’m coming with the exception of my sister so it should be a warm welcome.”
United anticipates more than four and a half million people will fly during this Thanksgiving holiday period. They said this past Sunday was actually our busiest day since the start of the pandemic and they’re expecting to beat those numbers next Sunday.
“We took a really different approach to the recovery, you know, we actually made a landmark deal with our pilots to ensure that we kept them flying throughout the pandemic,” said Carriere. “So we were able to bounce back very quickly. We also took a very surgical and pragmatic approach to rebuild our schedule, making sure that we were only flooding into flights that we knew we had the capacity and the ability to fly.”
She said having a vaccine requirement was also key for their preparation and now 99% of their employees are vaccinated.
“People can feel safe and confident flying with United knowing that that’s the case,” she added.
The airline is also hoping customers will take advantage of how technology can help make their own travel experience a smoother one. United has an app, so check with your airline to see if they have one as well.
This can help you see all the requirements for your destination if it’s specific forms, vaccination, or COVID-19 testing.
United says they’re expecting the surge the Thanksgiving week to continue into the holiday travel season and even the new year.
“In December, we’re preparing to fly our largest domestic schedule since the start of the pandemic. So we are really in a mode where we’re looking for opportunities for growth,” said Carriere. “Next year, we added our largest ever transatlantic expansion, we’re expecting a lot of international travel to come back to the Atlantic region next year.”
Travelers are urged to follow the tips they got used to before the pandemic.
“Remember to give yourself a little bit of extra time when you go to the airport. I think some of us might have lost a little bit of that muscle memory, got used to a little bit of that comfort of having it being a little less busy. If you’ve traveled throughout the pandemic, you know, we are expecting it to be much closer to what it was pre-pandemic,” she explained. “I think if you remember those kinds of fundamentals of packing your patience, make sure you’ve come prepared, I think you’ll be in really great shape.”