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Busy Thanksgiving travel numbers closely compare to pre-COVID 2019

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 4:59 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 24, 2021 at 5:58 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Forty-eight hours before Thanksgiving is usually one of the busiest periods of the eleven-day holiday period.

The Memphis International Airport tells us more people are traveling earlier as far as the weekend before.

“This will be about 90% of where we were in 2019, so we’re really beginning to approach those numbers where we’re almost back at those 2019 levels,” said Glen Thomas with MEM.

The same goes for major airports in neighboring cities.

For Memphis, roughly 78,000 people are expected to depart for turkey day, Little Rock 51,000 and Nashville an average of 25,000 to 30,000 per day.

TSA will be waiting on those crowds.

The deadline for all federal employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccination has now passed, and one agency that was drawing some concern was TSA, reporting only 60% of vaccinated employees in mid-October.

The agency now reports 93% of their staff is vaccinated, perfect timing for the Thanksgiving travel season.

Midday Tuesday, crowds at Memphis International Airport had died down, which was fortunate for Trina Wilson.

”What was your reaction when you didn’t see a large crowd here?” we asked her.

“Oh thank you Jesus,” Wilson said with a sigh of relief. “That’s what it really was because there’s a lot of people.”

Wilson was flying home to Rochester, New York, getting to host her Thanksgiving meal, thankful that families like hers can travel safely this year.

“Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s just meant for family because you’re not obligated to bring a present like Christmas or New Year’s a bottle of wine, something like that,” she said. “You can just show up with an empty plate and somebody’s going to cook something to give to you.”

Above all, for holiday travel, airport staff recommends proper planning for making that important flight.

“Two hours before your flight departs,” Thomas recommended. “You’ll need some extra time to park, get through the checkpoint, check in, so I think that two-hour window is a great way to save yourself some trouble.”

As a reminder, there is still a federal mask mandate in all airports and on airplanes.

If you forget yours, there are spots at the Memphis airport where they can provide you with one.

We are wishing everyone safe travels during this Thanksgiving holiday.

Copyright 2021 WMC. All rights reserved.

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