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Experts predict 12% increase in holiday travel

Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 7:21 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - If you plan on traveling to see family and friends for Thanksgiving, you’ll likely be sharing the roads and the airport with a lot more people. Travel experts project a 12% spike in holiday travel over the next week compared to last year in Kansas.

The surge usually starts the Friday before Thanksgiving, but airport officials say holiday travel is starting a little early this year. Traffic at the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport in Wichita was pretty steady on Thursday, and they expect it to continue throughout the holiday season.

“If you are traveling this year, you better pack your patience,” said Valerie Wise with air service and marketing for the Wichita Airport Authority.

The airport authority says this Thanksgiving holiday, passenger numbers are almost to where they were in 2019 - before the pandemic.

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand,” said Wise. “Families weren’t able to connect last year and are connecting this year.”

The Friday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and the Sunday after are projected to be busiest with roughly 3,000 people flying out of ICT. With more people checking and waiting on baggage, going through TSA and waiting in line to board, wait times are longer for just about everything.

With federal vaccine mandates taking effect for TSA workers next Monday, many travel experts feared it would increase wait times even more. But, TSA Administrator David Pakoske says vaccination rates are much higher than they were just weeks ago.

“And the good news for travelers is that more people, including TSA employees, are vaccinated. So for passengers, through a public health perspective, it’s a much safer experience,” said Pakoske.

The Wichita Airport Authority says TSA is fully-staffed and predicts roughly 30 minute wait times for passengers to get through security. Another suggestion is to arrive at the airport roughly two hours before departure time if you are flying out for Thanksgiving this year.

The airport authority also wants to remind passengers that masks are federally required in airports and on planes. They also encourage you to look at coronavirus restrictions or mandates in your destination city before you fly out.

If you plan on hitting the road, AAA says you won’t be alone. The travel agency predicts more than half a million Kansans will be on the road over the next week.

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