The Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend hit a record for the busiest travel day in history at U.S. airports, the Transportation Security Administration reported Monday, with almost 3 million people screened at security checkpoints and less than .5% of flights canceled on what is widely considered to be the busiest travel day of the year.
The TSA screened 2,907,378 people at airports nationwide on Sunday, Nov. 26, hitting an agency record for the busiest day ever for air travel.
Less than 0.5% of 51,332 scheduled flights were canceled on Sunday, according to live tracker Flight Radar 24, and no single airline canceled more than 1% of its flights.
Using data from satellite service provider Anuvu, air travel blogger Brett Snyder reported that there were 164 flights canceled out of 127,420 scheduled between Thanksgiving Thursday and late Sunday afternoon.
A majority of flights also took off within 14 minutes of their scheduled takeoff time, Synder reported—almost 90% of Delta’s flights between Tuesday, Nov. 21 and Sunday afternoon left on time for the best performance of the major airlines and Spirit, with the worst rate, saw 72% of its flights take off on time.
AAA predicted that this year’s Thanksgiving holiday would be the busiest for air travel in nearly two decades, and while the organization hasn’t issued its official Christmas travel projection, the bustling Thanksgiving weekend could be a litmus test for a busy winter travel season.
The busiest days to travel around the Christmas holiday have historically been Dec. 27, Dec. 30 and Dec. 20, in that order, according to TSA checkpoint data.
0. That’s how many flights airline Sun Country canceled on Thanksgiving weekend, Snyder reported. JetBlue canceled just one.
Sunday was the second time this year TSA has broken its own travel record. The agency recorded its previous busiest day in history on Friday, June 30, by screening 2.883 million passengers ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.
This weekend’s relatively smooth travel record stands in stark contrast to a 2022 Christmas that saw thousands of flights canceled due to winter storms and a devastating Southwest Airlines system crash. A nearly weekloing winter storm ahead of the Christmas holiday saw thousands of flights canceled with major airports like O’Hare and Midway in Chicago, Denver International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and New York’s LaGuardia Airport crippled by the weather. There were almost 3,500 flights canceled on On Christmas Eve, CNN reported, with 5,934 canceled on Friday, Dec. 23 and almost 2,700 called off on Thursday, Dec. 22. A major network failure at Southwest Airlines saw almost 70% of the airline’s flights canceled the day after Christmas and thousands of people were left sleeping on airport floors as other companies struggled to accommodate them. More than 3,000 flights in the U.S. were canceled on Monday, Dec. 26 and more than 7,400 others were delayed, the New York Times reported. More than 17,000 flights were ultimately canceled in the last days of December. The Department of Transportation opened a federal investigation into the debacle and the company later announced it had budgeted more than $1 billion for upgrading its IT systems.
What To Watch For
How Christmas travel goes. AAA last year estimated 113 million people would travel between December 23 to January 2, more than double the 55 million Americans it estimated would travel for the 2023 Thanksgiving holiday. The busy season is approaching as airlines are grapple “with a shortage of air-traffic controllers, congested airspace and limitations on runways and airport gates,” Reuters reported.