Thanksgiving travel rush hits Chicago airports, expected to set pandemic record

ByMichelle Gallardo and Maher Kawash WLS logo
Monday, November 29, 2021
Thanksgiving travel rush hits Chicago airports, expected to set pandemic record
Thanksgiving weekend is expected to set a COVID-19 pandemic travel record.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- According to AAA, Sunday is actually the busiest for air travel of the holiday weekend. Final numbers are not in, but if Saturday was any indication, over 2 million people will have flown nationwide just Sunday.

People have noticed the spike in travel on their flights.

"We were lucky to get really early flights where it looked like most people were trying to stay in bed, so we had no problems at all going through, but the plane was packed," said Mickey Shy, who was flying back to Chicago from California.

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Air travel reached its pandemic peak at O'Hare airport Sunday. A seemingly endless stream of planes touched down and took off on the very busy Sunday after Thanksgiving.

"It was awesome. We went to Washington D.C. to see our niece and we had a wonderful, wonderful trip. Of course, it's busy, but it was well worth it," said Villare Stewart.

"Lots of Turkey. It's really cold in Chicago. I'm originally from here but I'm live in Los Angeles," added Barry Rosenblum.

The crowds inside the terminals matched the traffic jam outside. There was the usual packing and repacking on the terminal floor just before check-in, followed by long lines to get through security.

Mild weather across the country meant that despite the crowds, there were relatively few delays and cancellations.

"For us, it was perfect," said Bob Shanley. "We got there a little bit over three hours before our flight so we went through security so fast in Denver, and then just sat and had breakfast and everything went perfect."

While air travel over the holiday weekend isn't quite back to its 2019 levels, according to TSA, twice as many people have gone through the nation's airports this year than last, making for a lot of long-awaited family reunions.

"The borders of the U.S. have been closed to travelers from Europe, so when they opened we had her visit me," said Elenore Neufeld.

"We went to Reno, Nevada," said Alex Wise-Bey. "My cousin lives out there, so we decided to go out there and visit some family for the first time in two years."

Some came in last night ahead of the major rush.

"It was definitely a conscious decision, not only to avoid the traffic but also the price, for sure, was a big factor," said Joseph Petrullo, who was flying back from New Jersey.

AAA said it expected airports, like Midway, to see the worst of it Sunday afternoon between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Despite being the busiest day at the airports, keep in mind that Monday is also expected to be quite busy. So, if you're one of the lucky ones to have had an extended weekend, still give yourself some extra time to get here.