I got up early yesterday morning ready to write about airline meltdowns, but it proved to be the smoothest day of Thanksgiving travel in recent memory. Moderate weather certainly helped, but it seems that US airlines finally have their acts together. That is cause for celebration.
US Airlines Encounter Smooth Thanksgiving
This week is shaping up to be a remarkably smooth week of travel. Carriers have maximized their schedule and arguably stretched themselves thin, but the first five days of the week have been so smooth that I wonder if these carriers have finally found a workable new norm and a system that can better anticipate delays and prepare in advance for them (and perhaps even counteract them).
Yesterday, per Flight Aware, there were only 32 cancellations across all commercial flights touching the USA. On Wednesday that number was 67 with 72 on Tuesday and 70 on Monday. Delays were also minor. There were snow showers in parts of New England, but even that did not have a snowball effect on air traffic (if you’ll pardon the pun…).
This is important because it takes us back to the pandemic era and the promise US airlines made to the US government and implicitly to US consumers (and taxpayers who may not even fly) that the lucrative bailouts were necessary to ensure that airlines could efficiently ramp up when demand returned.
Of course, we saw the opposite: holiday meltdowns became so frequent they became the butt of SNL jokes and far more importantly, stranded tens of thousands of passengers.
It was a bait and switch. While European and Asian carriers were forced to pay back their COVID-era emergency loans, US carriers got to keep the generous subsidies with few strings attached.
But the smooth week so far suggests that carriers are finally, just a few year late, living up to their pandemic-era promises.
Speaking of SNL, if you have not seen this spoof on Thanksgiving travel yet, don’t miss it:
I realize some will call the celebration premature or warn us all to wait till the next major storm. Certainly, we will see more cancellations and delays when those inevitable weather events occur. If American Airlines flight attendants actually strike, we might see many non-weather-related disruptions as well.
But this is progress. This is something to celebrate. It was a smooth Thanksgiving. Now, will it continue through the weekend?