NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – As millions of people fly to see loved ones on Thanksgiving, airports will likely be crowded to near pre-pandemic levels this entire week – and it has already started.
John Dias of CBS2 took a closer look at what’s in store for some travelers.
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Wednesday is set to be one of the busiest travel days of the year, but at first glance, LaGuardia Airport on Tuesday made Wednesday’s traditional getaway day a run for its money.
âI thought it was going to be bad. It’s gnarier than I expected, âsaid Gramercy Park resident Sophia Smith.
âOther years it was a long time but not that long,â said traveler Ridwana Zaman.
A long TSA line snaked around Queens Airport for the second day in a row. Harriet Nance from Brooklyn says the best way to describe it is just one word.
âWow,â Nance said.
A self-proclaimed avid traveler, she said she had never seen so many people before.
âIt’s the heart that stops. You have to prepare yourself, make sure you have the time, âNance said.
Some 4.2 million Americans are expected to fly on Thanksgiving – an increase of more than 80% from last year – now passing through TSA-vaccinated employees after a new federal mandate Monday. Ninety-three percent of TSA employees received at least one dose.
âWe absolutely celebrate when it’s all over, and we can kind of slow down and breathe a little bit,â said Yanick-Nikita Lunford, TSA safety training instructor.
For Delta Air Lines, it’s time to play. At all times, most major airports have tens of trucks and thousands of employees all coordinating in real time. It’s something passengers don’t see: thousands of bags checked, sorted and loaded onto planes.
âIt may sound like chaos to the average person, but there is a – there is a ballet going on here,â said Matt Sparks, vice president of operations for Delta Air Lines.
Watch the report by John Dias –
The rise in travel comes as several Democrats, including New York Rep. Ritchie Torres, call on President Joe Biden to require all airline passengers to provide proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test to board – not just on international flights.
“This is a necessary and long overdue step to ensure that all Americans feel safe and confident when traveling and to reduce the changes of another devastating winter wave,” they wrote.
It attracts opinions from both sides.
Nationally, infections have increased 54% in the past month.
âIt’s the same. We’re exposing ourselves. Delta crawled,â said Katherine Sharburgh of Rye.
“I’m vaccinated, I don’t think it should be forced on people,” said traveler Becky Arnold.
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“I think I would feel safer if everyone was vaccinated or at least if everyone was tested,” traveler Nicole Rosenthal told CBS2.
The Rosenthal family was already in compliance with the potential requirement.
“We’re both double vaccinated and boosted, and she’s had two shots, and we’re good to go,” said Nicole Rosenthal.
âI have the impression that as long as people take the appropriate safety measures, it is not necessary. I mean, everyone has the right to choose, âone person said.
âI feel pretty safe. Everyone wears their mask on board and at the disinfection stations, âsaid Erin Coombs.
AAA says this year’s forecast marks the biggest single-year increase in the number of Thanksgiving travelers since 2005. So pack not just your masks, but your patience.
Meanwhile, 90% of people traveling on vacation are expected to drive to their destination this year. This is a turnout that has not been seen for several years, according to experts.
As CBS2’s Cory James reports, New York City traffic was blazing Tuesday ahead of one of the busiest travel days of the year.
âToday was a disaster,â said Alberto Cretara, a resident of Queens.
âIt sucks,â said one driver.
Many drivers expect it to get even worse.
“It really hurts me,” said another driver.
AAA Northeast spokesman Robert Sinclair said Wednesday there would be significant traffic delays.
“Without a doubt, Wednesday afternoon the day before the holidays, from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. or so is the worst time to be on the road,” he said.
According to AAA, the Long Island Freeway will see a 482% increase in traffic from Exit 13 to Exit 32. The Brooklyn-Queens Freeway lags behind with a jump of 479% for those heading south from the exit. 35 to Exit 22. Westbound commuters on the Belt Parkway will see a 254% jump from Exit 17 to Exit 3.
âIt will be hammer time on local roads,â Sinclair said.
Still, drivers say it’s worth getting together as a family.
âFinally, we can kiss each other again, and let’s do it,â Cretara said.
Sinclair says to avoid those major traffic jams, go to bed early on Wednesday nights, and get up early on Thanksgiving morning to get to your destination.
If you take a train this holiday week, there are MTA service changes. For more information, Click here.
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Cory James of CBS2 contributed to this report.