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Thanksgiving air travel is expected to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, TSA says

Passengers lined up for security check at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago
Passengers line up to go through security at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport ahead of the July 4 holiday weekend.
(Shafkat Anowar / Associated Press)

The number of airline passengers traveling for Thanksgiving this year is expected to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, a surge that the Transportation Security Administration says it is ready to handle.

TSA chief David Pekoske said Wednesday that he expects agency staffing to be sufficient for what’s traditionally the agency’s busiest travel period.

“We are prepared,” Pekoske told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” He said travelers should expect long lines at airports and plan to spend a little more time getting through security.

In 2019, a record 26 million passengers and crew passed through U.S. airport screening in the 11-day period around Thanksgiving. But that plummeted in 2020 as the coronavirus kept people at home.

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Pekoske said he didn’t think a vaccine mandate going into effect for TSA agents Monday would have any effect on staffing for Thanksgiving next week.

“In fact, implementation of the mandate will make travel safer and healthier for everyone,” he said. “So we see quite a significant increase in the number of our officers that are vaccinated, and I’m very confident that there will be no impact for Thanksgiving.”

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Pekoske told NBC’s “Today” that he remains “very concerned” about the issue of unruly passengers as incidents on airplanes have continued.

“The level of unruly behavior is much higher than I’ve ever seen it,” he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration says it has referred 37 cases involving unruly airline passengers to the FBI for possible criminal prosecution since the number of disruptions on flights began to spike in January.


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