It happened again over lunch recently. A person at the table said, “Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year in the US.” I smiled and nodded and listened.
It is a myth I hear people repeat frequently. The propagation of this belief is based on experience, and the careful differences in the way information are shared.
In fact, days surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday are not the busiest (highest number of travelers) in the US. It does not even make the top 10 list during the year. But it is among the “Worst” days to travel.
Where do the confusion and the difference come? Check out this DATA POINT from the US travel association. The headline is Record Number of Thanksgiving Travelers Will Strain Air Travel Infrastructure but the record for most travelers in a day, or busiest is not what this says. It’s just that more people are planning to travel this year on this day than in the past.
Why is it the worst?
First, the majority of people who travel on this day of the year are not as experienced a traveler. These travelers are not masses frequent flyers who have retraced steps on and off the plane knowing proper etiquette. They are often polite, which is nice, but they are not efficient. They question the need for the two carry on limit, ask more first time questions, and are less confident or seasoned with the experience.
Second, the “A” team is taking time off. All the front line, best and brightest, know how to get things done team members are taking a holiday for themselves. This is great! They are often overworked and under appreciated. They deserve time away. Those who are committed to the job, who tell themselves they will sacrifice their time for others are not less skilled, or not part of the “A” team. Instead, these are often people who are overworked. They may have the same skills, or better skills, but are tired and less sharp from that human condition that comes from lack of rest. Please, for the love of everything right in the universe, BE GOOD to these people.
Third, the US air travel infrastructure needs a lot of TLC. I have seen the change, and maybe you have too, at LGA, PHX, SLC there is a lot of construction. Last year at DTW a large section was closed to gates as deeper pours of concrete was in place for the massive aircraft that would soon arrive. I am not saying America isn’t great. On the contrary, it’s great because we are always reinvesting in new and better ways to do something with greater efficiency and effectiveness. The strain on this system is the weak spot. I downloaded my phone app for travel ten years ago and am highly dependent on it. Great technology! But this week of Thanksgiving, a bunch of people just remembered they need to download it, or update it, or request the password they forgot. That is the strain on the system. The tired person on call might miss something, and the rested person is on a beach somewhere.
I am thankful for many things this year — your readership, my clients, great co-workers, friends, and family. Please express your thankfulness by being good to one another while you visit travel world. Your kindness will help to make this easier on all of us. And, you are only allowed two carry-on which included your luggage and a purse or briefcase/computer bag. Don’t debate it, follow that rule.