A Better Flight Plan

Industry Insights

U.S. Airlines Report Strong Operational Performance over Thanksgiving 2021 Travel Period

Ahead of the busy holiday travel season, U.S. airlines knew that millions of people were eager to book tickets, pack their bags and fly to see loved ones across the country and around the world. That’s why A4A member carriers prepared for weeks to meet the strong holiday demand by recalling employees who took voluntary leave; hiring and training new employees; offering higher pay and other incentives to ensure robust staffing; returning to service aircraft put in storage during the pandemic; putting new aircraft in service; and deploying additional capacity.

Due to the efforts by U.S. airlines and thousands of employees to streamline and fully staff operations, carriers smoothly transported a pandemic-record number of travelers over the Thanksgiving holiday, which reached nearly 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels, including the single day pandemic-record of 2.4 million passengers screened by the Transportation Security Administration on Sunday, November 28.

Six A4A member airlines and their regional partners reported strong performance across the Thanksgiving travel period (the Friday before Thanksgiving through the Monday after Thanksgiving), flying an average of nearly 19,000 flights per day – a 38 percent increase in flights per day over 2020.

During the travel period, U.S. airlines reported their best on-time performance since 2017 (excluding 2020) at 85 percent and reported a 99.7 percent completion factor of all scheduled flights – the best results since the 2014 Thanksgiving travel period. This performance exceeds pre-pandemic years and showcases the preparation and resiliency the U.S. airline industry exercised just a year after it was decimated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Passengers who took to the skies this holiday encountered a travel journey enhanced with disinfection protocols and new touchless technology to help them “Fly Healthy. Fly Smart.” from check-in to deplaning, as well as additional digital functionality for weather-related alerts, boarding notifications, automated rebooking and more.

U.S. airlines and their employees worked hard to meet the surging Thanksgiving demand, resulting in a smooth and successful Thanksgiving travel period. U.S. airlines were proud to welcome back even more customers during this Thanksgiving holiday travel period and look forward to reuniting even more friends and family who have not seen each other in two years or more throughout the season.

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