Travel during the Thanksgiving holiday period is expected to return to levels not seen since before the COVID-19 pandemic, with Delta anticipating up to 5.6 million passengers from Nov. 19-30.
To support customers, Delta has increased staffing levels across the operation including in customer service and reservations, and new flight attendants have graduated to accommodate the growing number of flights being restored.
The anticipated volume represents a nearly threefold increase over the pandemic-battered 2020 season (2.2 million passengers). U.S. leisure travel has fully recovered to 2019 levels as vaccination rates climb.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving Day is expected to be the busiest day of the period, matching the single-day post-downturn record of 520,000 set this past Sunday.
In addition to a busy domestic schedule, Delta has seen a 450% increase in international point-of-sale bookings in the six weeks between the U.S. border reopening on Nov. 8 and the date it was announced. Many international flights are expected to operate with high passenger volume throughout the following weeks.
While the numbers fall shy of the 6.3 million customers who traveled during the same period in 2019, the surge nevertheless represents a recovery milestone. That also means there will be busy airports, full flights and passengers who haven’t traveled in some time.
“The holidays can be a stressful time for many, but traveling doesn’t have to be,” said Dr. Henry Ting, Delta’s Chief Health Officer. “The best thing we can do – like with most things in life we find stressful – is to prepare ahead of time and anticipate challenges so we take as much control over our experience as possible. This also allows us the mental space to give grace to those around us.”
Ting also offered advice to travelers on how they can make it through their journey a bit easier:
- Arrive at least two hours before domestic flights. (Three hours for international.)
- Come prepared with all necessary ID and documentation. (Delta’s integrated Fly Ready tool available on delta.com and the Fly Delta app can help.)
- Follow FAA requirements and wear a mask in airports and on flights – a rule in place through Jan. 18, 2022.
- With the widespread availability of rapid tests, consider testing yourself before travel and upon arrival, and keep a few extra tests in your luggage in case you are exposed or experience symptoms.
- Pack a few extra masks and hand sanitizer in your luggage.
- And if you feel sick, stay home — customers can still change or cancel trips directly on delta.com or the Fly Delta app through 2021 without paying a change fee.
The low risk of COVID-19 transmission on aircraft has been verified by numerous studies over the past 12 months, including a recent peer-reviewed study by the Mayo Clinic that shows the risk of exposure to COVID-19 while traveling after all passengers test negative 72 hours in advance of flight is less than 0.1%.