Thanksgiving Travel: "An All-Day Event"

If you’ll be flying this Thanksgiving, be prepared for delays. So says FareCompare CEO and airline industry analyst Rick Seaney who adds, “I always treat holiday travel as an all-day event.” [See Rick in the video below]

LISTEN: Rick’s been there; this is how he copes.

*Cheapest days to fly for last-minute Thanksgiving tickets

How Many Will Fly

According to new figures from the airline trade group Airlines for America, 24.6 million people will travel globally on U.S. airlines during the Thanksgiving travel period (Nov. 21 to Dec. 2). That’s just a slight increase over last year’s figures – about 1.5 percent – but if you flew in 2013 you may recall the lack of empty seats. Planes were packed last year and planes will be packed again this year. And you can count on delays.

Thanksgiving Flight Delays

“A big chunk of us will face delays this Thanksgiving,” said Seaney and past airline on-time performances would seem to bear this out. According to flight statistics for November and December over the past five years, several airports racked-up delays of more than 20 percent while one airport – Newark – saw nearly a third of its holiday flights delayed.

Caution: Delayed Flights Can Be ‘Un-Delayed’

A word of caution from Seaney. “Sometimes flights can be un-delayed,” and he cites a couple of examples such as mechanical problems that are fixed sooner than expected, or in the case of bad weather, an unanticipated clearing.

Bottom line: If an airline gate agent announces a two hour delay, don’t go far. If the delay is lifted after an hour but you’re not there to board, too bad – the plane will take off without you. Treat such announcements as courtesy updates and stick close enough to the gate to hear any updates.

Use Common Sense

One last thing – use your common sense. If you’re at home and get a text from the airline saying your flight is delayed – and you can clearly see the streets are impassible due to several feet of snow – that’s one delay announcement you can probably believe.  If it’s not that bad, go – but bring charger cords, something to eat and something to read or watch in case you’ll be sitting around for a while.

VIDEO: Rick Seaney’s appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America.

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Updated: November 12, 2014