Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Thanksgiving travelers can expect busy airports, longer lines, and fuller flights this year

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA

People who plan to travel by plane this Thanksgiving might want to be prepared for long lines, baggage checks, and a more crowded airport. This holiday season, airport officials say passenger levels could rise closer to pre-pandemic levels.

According to airport officials and AAA, holiday travel at airports could be up 80% this year, compared to 2020. The Transportation Security Administration expects to screen about 20 million passengers over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Last month’s passenger count at the Pittsburgh International Airport was up 120% from last year.

“If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, you can’t predict anything, but we’re hopeful that this is turning into a trend that will lead to travel consistently recovering in Pittsburgh,” said Bryan Dietz, the senior vice president of air service and commercial development for the Allegheny County Airport Authority.

Dietz said that terminal stores and restaurants have begun to reopen, travelers may have “a relatively familiar experience at the airport.”

He told WESA’s The Confluence that lines will likely resemble 2019 more than 2020. This could be a sign that air travel levels are returning to normal. Dietz is hopeful the upward trajectory will continue.

“We still have a ways to go. We’re not out of this yet. But being at 78% of our 2019 levels is certainly a positive direction that we’re seeing here at the airport.”

Cargo traffic at Pittsburgh International Airport is also on the rise. In October, air cargo shipments rose nearly 31% compared to the same time last year.

Dietz said that while nothing could make up for the 96% drop in passenger traffic the airport last year, cargo gave their finances a “boost” that softened some of their losses.

At the Pittsburgh International Airport, the busiest travel days will likely be the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after it.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at