More Thanksgiving travelers, but it’s easy flying

Posted 12/1/21

By JOHN HOWELL The Thanksgiving weekend is renowned as the busiest period for airline travel. That was hard to tell Sunday afternoon at Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport. Sunday is traditionally the busiest of the holiday period for air

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More Thanksgiving travelers, but it’s easy flying


The Thanksgiving weekend is renowned as the busiest period for airline travel.

That was hard to tell Sunday afternoon at Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport. Sunday is traditionally the busiest of the holiday period for air travelers.

Indeed, planes were departing and arriving as families and friends who had come together to celebrate Thanksgiving Day returned home, to colleges and universities or to work. Yet there were no long lines – in fact, at 4 p.m. there was no line for TSA screening. The same held true at baggage claim carousels with flights arriving from Baltimore and Charlotte.

It wasn’t that the arriving planes were empty. That was not the case for a Brown University freshman who was on the Baltimore flight. He said the flight was full. He did not experience a rebooking of his flight or any delays. It went like clockwork.

Salve Regina student Grace Murphy, who is studying psychology and administration of justice, related a similar experience. She spent Thanksgiving in Oklahoma and was returning to Rhode Island on an American flight from Charlotte. She made her connections without issue and despite a 30-minute delay on one connecting flight it all went smoothly.

The stark difference between her trip last year at this time and this year was the mood of fellow passengers, airline personnel and airport personnel. Murphy said last year people were “panicked” and apprehensive. She said people were far more relaxed this year.

A family of three also arriving from Charlotte found the experience on the busiest weekend for flying “not too bad.” The father, who preferred not to give a name, said there was no evidence of flights being short-staffed.

Departing passengers found it easygoing, too, easier than they were prepared for.

The Garrity family had allowed for at least an hour for their Thanksgiving guest, Helen Ma, a former Chinese exchange student who they had hosted four years ago, to clear security and catch the flight to return her to Rutgers University, where she now studies.

Maeve Garrity and her parents Kelsey and John, who accompanied Helen to the airport, were surprised to find no line and to see Helen quickly clear security. They waved their farewell.

Working on the side of the airlines was the weather across the country. Schedules were kept and flights weren’t diverted. According to the flight tracker FlightAware, 400 domestic flights or 0.33 percent of scheduled flights were canceled between Monday and Saturday of last week. No flights were canceled at Green.

The busiest day of the holiday weekend was Friday when a total of 133 arriving and departing flights were recorded at Green, according to FlightAware. This compares with 96 last year and 180 in 2019.

John Goodman, spokesman for the Rhode Island Airport Authority, said official traffic numbers won’t be available for another couple of days but “we had more (passengers) than last year, but not as many as two years ago.”

Goodman said it always helps to have good weather and no flight cancellations.

“It’s always a point of pride to get people where they need to be,” he said.

According to TSA a total of 10.1 million passengers cleared security checks nationwide from Tuesday, Nov. 23 through Sunday as compared to 4.6 million for the same period in 2020.

Bailey R (she preferred not to use her last name) stopped in at the information desk to learn what bus she should take to get her back to the URI campus where she is studying speech therapy. On her return from Baltimore she had two large suitcases in tow – winter clothes and blankets for the coming months. She said her flight was full of college students. Her story had a similar ring … it all went smoothly.

James Ball who works for ABM vouched for the volume of students. Ball worked the days before and after Thanksgiving. On Sunday he reported for work at 4:30 a.m. and was still there 12 hours later filling in for someone who couldn’t make their shift.

Throughout the period, he said lines moved smoothly and he was unaware of any backups or delays. For the most part, he said, travelers appeared to be students or young families. There were not many elderly travelers, he said.

Among other services for airlines, ABM provides wheelchairs for passengers needing them.

Kevin Sawyer, who manned the information desk during the holiday weekend offered the same observation. He found the terminal less crowded than he had expected.

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