WASHINGTON, D.C. — As Florida airports begin a big holiday travel season, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the Department expects 50,000 flights in the skies on Wednesday nationwide.
Orlando International Airport is expecting 2 million travelers over the course of the Thanksgiving travel period, and Tampa International Airport is also anticipating hundreds of thousands of passengers.
President of the U.S. Travel Association Geoff Freeman said the industry is anticipating extraordinary demand.
“We’ve seen, fortunately, in today’s environment post pandemic, travelers tend to spread their travel out a little bit more. It’s no longer all about the Wednesday before, the Sunday after, there’s a little bit more of a spread that creates a bit of an ease on the system,” he told Spectrum News in an interview last week.
The Department of Transportation says it’s been taking steps this year aimed at easing holiday travel following last year’s strain coming out of the pandemic.
The commercial space industry will be limited from doing launches around Thanksgiving, the Federal Aviation Administration is temporarily widening otherwise restricted airspace off the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico to allow for more planes in the skies at once, and DOT has hired 1,500 air traffic control staff this year.
“While airline issues were the main cause of delays after, of course, weather itself, we also did see a number of disruptions related to air traffic control issues. This is less than 10% of delay minutes,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Monday.
“But, any time it’s more than zero, we want to take action. So we have accelerated ATC hiring and modernization hiring 1,500 new controllers in the last fiscal year. And most importantly, we pushed airlines to do better and held them accountable when they made mistakes,” he continued.
Freeman added: “We’re hopeful that we’ll get through next week smoothly, but I believe travelers should be less tolerant of the problems that they have with the system. I believe travelers should be demanding more of the federal government, investing and improving TSA, and invest in improving air traffic control.”
Buttigieg said there is “some bad weather expected” that could affect Thanksgiving travel. DOT says in the event of “weather or airspace congestion,” it prioritizes commercial flights to get the green light to take off ahead of private business jets.