This Year's Thanksgiving Saw the Third-Highest Travel Numbers in 20 Years

We're back, baby

Thanksgiving Travel Expected To Reach Near Pre-Pandemic Volume
Scott Olson / Getty Images

Earlier this month, AAA predicted that 2022 would be the third-busiest Thanksgiving travel weekend in over 20 years. The travel club began counting travelers back in 2000 and estimated 2022 would see 54.6 million Americans pack their bags and travel at least 50 miles from home to meet up with family and friends for the holiday.

Air travel numbers, in particular, were expected to spike this year—and it turns out this year's Turkey Day travel traffic did not disappoint. Final passenger counts from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) clocked 10,665,281 for the period between Wednesday, Nov. 23 through Sunday, Nov. 27.

According to TSA counts for previous years, that's 5.2 percent more than last year, yet still a hair away from the 11,714,728 passengers that the agency counted in 2019. (If you're keeping score, 2005 and 2019 were the busiest Thanksgiving travel years, respectively, on AAA's books.)

We think it's safe to say that we're all grateful to be back in the friendly skies in top numbers, it wouldn't be a busy holiday travel period without a few snags along the way.

While most travelers had smooth travel experiences heading out toward family and friends, the ride back is where things started getting messy. If you traveled on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we hope you packed some comforting leftovers to help deal with the pain of hectic airports, long waits, and the 6,407 flight delays and 176 canceled flights, according to FlightAware.

Lucky for airlines, many of these interruptions were due to severe weather and storms forecast in different regions across the country, including snowstorms in the Pacific Northwest, high winds across the Northwest, and thunderstorms moving up from the Southwest through the South. Unfortunately for travelers, severe weather is deemed an "uncontrollable delay," meaning airlines are not required to dole out passenger compensation like they are in "controllable" situations.

All-in-all, we've seen worse from a holiday travel period—and even some non-holiday travel nightmares—so let's keep our feathers crossed that travel numbers stay high and inconveniences remain low for our upcoming December travel plans.

Article Sources
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  1. AAA Newsroom. "Thanksgiving Travel Ticks Up, Just Shy of Pre-Pandemic Levels." November 15, 2022.

  2. Transportation Security Administration. "TSA Checkpoint Travel Numbers (Current Year Versus Prior Year(s)/Same Weekday)." Nov. 28, 2022