Expect shorter lines at airports this Thanksgiving holiday

("20120218 17 South Bend Airport" by David Wilson, CC BY 2.0)

If you’re flying over Thanksgiving, you should find shorter lines than usual at the airport.

Air travel has been down sharply because of the pandemic, and is expected to increase only slightly for the holiday. TSA Administrator David Pekoske says airlines are expecting a bump similar to Columbus Day weekend last month.

The TSA has also made several pandemic-inspired changes over the last several months which have the side benefit of shortening lines. Pekoske says they’re opening more lines than they normally would, which, depending on the time of day, tends to make those lines shorter. The agency is assigning one screener specifically to make sure people stay six feet apart in line, with floor markings showing you where to stand.

Pekoske says the TSA has also upgraded the software on the full-body X-ray machine, resulting in fewer pat-down searches. And screeners will no longer ask you to take liquids and laptops out of your bag.

The screener will give you a mask if you show up without one. Airlines for America president Nick Calio says pilots and flight attendants remind passengers to stay masked on the plane. Calio and Pekoske say the vast majority of travelers have been complying with mask requirements, but Calio notes in those cases where someone has refused, airlines have turned planes around, or banned passengers from the airline until the pandemic is over.

Pekoske says whether you fly at all is up to you. He says to consider advice from the CDC, your doctor, and the local health department — and says you should check on any restrictions not just at home, but where you’re going.


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