300,000 expected to travel through KCI airport around Thanksgiving

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The 10 days around Thanksgiving will see nearly 20 million travelers pass through U.S. airports.

Airport managers say 300,000 travelers will use Kansas City International Airport during that time.

Both Delta and United Airlines said they expect Sunday to be the busiest air travel day since the start of the pandemic, and airport managers say they expect the same at KCI Airport on Sunday.

Short-staffed air carriers have struggled to recover from disruptions that resulted in mass cancellations and stranded travelers earlier this year.

Since June, nine of the largest U.S. airlines have had to cancel flights on a large scale.

To prevent operational problems during the holiday weekend, Southwest and Spirit airlines have scaled back the number of flights and are keeping more crews on call.

That also impacts how many people are traveling through KCI Airport.

“We are back to about 85 percent of pre-pandemic levels,” said Justin Meyer, deputy director of Kansas City’s aviation department. “So we still are not quite as busy as we were Thanksgiving of 2019. We think our airline partners are being judicious in their restoration of airline capacity here. So far, everything is looking good for this holiday travel.”

American Airlines is paying $1,000 bonuses to employees to make sure flights are staffed.

Flight attendants with perfect attendance are getting triple pay. However, unions representing airline workers say not enough has been done to fix the operational problems.

They fear bad weather or technical issues could cause mass cancellations or system breakdowns again.

A lot of travelers at KCI Airport hope that doesn’t happen.

KCI administration have been warning travelers to arrive early to prepare for the Thanksgiving rush. On Wednesday, that seemed to work out well.

“I picked the perfect time because I cannot believe there’s no one here,” said Sarah McConnell who is travelling with her daughter to see family in California.

Airport workers said Wednesday morning was packed with travelers, but midday at KCI was a breeze. Happy travelers scooted quickly through check-in and security. Those who arrived at KCI from out of town had a similar experience.

But while many are flying, AAA estimates 95% of holiday travelers will be driving instead.

Those drivers will pay the highest prices for gas since 2012. The bad news is that drivers will be paying about $1.30 more per gallon than previous years. The good news is Missouri has the sixth lowest statewide average in the country for gasoline.

“We have flown in the past but it’s just a lot cheaper to drive and provides more flexibility,” said Katie Meyer, who is driving her family to Omaha, Nebraska.

Flexibility is one of the top benefit AAA is hearing from drivers about why they are hitting the road.

“The biggest piece of advice we can give, if you are traveling in those high-volume times, is to leave plenty of time to account for that extra traffic to make sure you get to your destination safely and with as little stress as possible,” said AAA Spokesman Nick Chabarria.

That time-management element is stressed by all travel experts, no matter flying or driving.

AAA expects to be extra busy responding to roadside assistance calls. They want everyone to make sure your vehicle is ready to go when you leave. Regular maintenance is important and checking tire pressure, especially as the weather changes, may be the key to your safe and successful road trip.

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