The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) estimates that up to 20 million flight travelers would be screened during the Thanksgiving holiday period, which runs from November 19 to November 28.
Thanksgiving is generally one of the busiest travel seasons in the United States, with the TSA screening the most passengers in a single day on the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2019.
While the TSA does not plan to surpass pre-pandemic records this year, air travel demand has increased compared to 2020, and an increase in COVID-19 infections across the United States is unlikely to damper the spirits of Americans who want to fly and see friends and family.
“We anticipate that travel may be very close to pre-pandemic levels this holiday, and we are staffed and prepared for the holiday travelers,” commented TSA Administrator David Pekoske on Wednesday.
Pekoske has been confronted with uncomfortable concerns about the TSA’s readiness for a looming vaccine mandate for Homeland Security employees. 40% of the TSA’s personnel, including airport security screeners, was still unvaccinated as of late last month.
Pekoske, on the other hand, is unconcerned about how the November 22 deadline may affect operations during the Thanksgiving holiday.
“We have deployed technologies that enhance detection capabilities and reduce physical contact, and it’s equally important that passengers are prepared with travel tips for the most efficient checkpoint experience,” Pekoske commented.
“With overall vaccination rates improving nationwide and greater confidence in healthy travel, there will be more people traveling so plan ahead, remain vigilant and practice kindness.”
Because the Biden administration has outlined a progressive way to deal with employees who fail to comply with the vaccination obligation, the implementation of the vaccination deadline should have no immediate impact on staffing levels.
Before supervisors consider disciplinary action such as suspension or dismissal, employees will be assigned to counseling.
However, several labor unions have urged for a deadline extension – similar to those implemented by other airlines – to eliminate even the remotest potential of a personnel shortage during the holiday season.
Delta Air Lines said it plans to fly as many as 5.6 million people over Thanksgiving, which is still 300 percent higher than last year’s disastrous numbers.