TSA faces staffing shortages as Thanksgiving travel rush begins

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — With Thanksgiving just days away, New Englanders are traveling to get to their holiday destinations.

The numbers are expected to be just shy of pre-pandemic levels, with the majority hitting the roads. 

It’s a tradition for Rachael Konigsberg of New Haven to spend Thanksgiving with her aunt and uncle in Upstate New York. 

However, last year Konigsberg didn’t risk gathering amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It was sad, but we also knew that it was the best thing to do,” Konigsberg said.

This time around Konigsberg and others like Aaron Stolicker of Boston are feeling more comfortable about seeing family for the holiday.

“All of us are vaccinated, and we started on our boosters and everything,” Stocker said. 

COVID-19 vaccinations are making many people more comfortable with flying. There could be longer lines at the security desk as TSA now has a vaccine requirement for all of its workers, and Monday is the deadline for all federal workers to be fully vaccinated.

It looks like it will be a gradual process of sending unvaccinated workers home, but the TSA was already having trouble finding enough workers for a public that is suddenly eager to fly.

“Aruba was a little bit of a challenge. You had to be at the airport four hours before. We just made our flight, we were there three and a half hours before. But here, going to Denver, we never had a problem,” Southbury resident Marilyn Sullivan said.

If you are flying, you should get to the airport two and a half to three hours before your departure time for domestic flights to make sure you get through security on time.

In fact, in a new AAA poll of Connecticut residents, only 8% felt traveling over Thanksgiving posed a ‘significant risk for COVID,’ down from 40% last year. 

Tracy Noble of AAA Greater Hartford said this Thanksgiving 2.5 million New Englanders will travel 50 miles or more from home between Wednesday and Sunday, just shy of the record set in 2019. Eighty-seven percent of these travelers are expected to hit the roads. 

“It’s going to be reminiscent of a pre-pandemic Thanksgiving,” Noble said. “People are hitting the road, they’re getting out there. They’re going to be gathering with friends and family, and for some, it’s going to be for the first time in two years.”

If you’re one of those drivers, expect to pay more at the pump.

Noble said Connecticut drivers are paying more than $1.40 higher for gas than this time last year. Though, there’s some good news.

“They seem to be holding steady at least over the course of the last week, and the price of crude oil did dip below the $80 per barrel mark as of Friday,” Noble said. 

For Konigsberg, no matter the cost or traffic, she has one motto.

“Just take it as it comes,” Konigsberg said. “We’re excited, we’re really looking forward to seeing family again.”

If you plan to drive this Thanksgiving, travel experts advise that you leave as early as you can or after the evening rush. 

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