Experts predict this Thanksgiving could be the most significant holiday travel surge of the pandemic era. Unfortunately, the spike could lead to a new rash of delays and cancellations. 

Based on reservations, airline officials say the number of people expected to fly this Thanksgiving holiday season will increase drastically, approaching pre-pandemic levels. The rise would be an improvement of nearly 80% from last year, according to AAA. 

On Saturday, TSA officials said it screened more than 2.5 million people at airports across the country, the highest number since the pandemic, and expects to screen 20 million people over a 10 day period that started Friday and lasts through the Sunday after Thanksgiving. 

A big spike is a shot in the arm for airlines, which are still struggling to shore up operations. 

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Spirit Air are among carriers that have had to cancel thousands of flights this fall, in part due to staffing shortages. Some airlines have hired additional employees with incentives like signing bonuses and holiday bonus pay while trimming flight schedules to accommodate holiday travelers. 

International travel is also expected to rise.

Last week, the Biden administration lifted travel restrictions for fully vaccinated passengers from nearly three dozen countries, including China, South Africa, Brazil and much of Europe. 

At O’Hare International Airport, WGN spoke with one woman who is flying to Norfolk, Virginia, to visit her kids, who are both in the military.

“We missed our kids dearly last year. We are thankful for the vaccine and able to travel and go see them. My grandkids are in Virginia, and we are pretty comfortable flying,” said Delores Figueroa.  

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is expected to be the busiest travel day during the Thanksgiving holiday, with 2.4 million passengers flying home, which would make it the most active day at US airports this year.