abc27 Exclusive: Thanksgiving period to be among HIA’s busiest since COVID began

Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — If an exclusive analysis by abc27 News of airline schedule data is any clue, the days surrounding Thanksgiving could be some of the busiest yet — and that, in turn, means some first-time-in-a-long-time fliers could need some new tips for staying comfortable and safe.

First, the data. Based on Cirium data reflecting the number of seats scheduled in both directions, these are the five busiest days at Harrisburg International Airport since March 2020:

DateAirline seats scheduled at Harrisburg (MDT)
July 11, 20215,234
July 1, 20215,220
Nov. 29, 20215,198
July 8, 20215,192
Aug. 1, 20215,192
Source: abc27 analysis of Cirium schedule data

Nov. 29 is the Monday after Thanksgiving. The four other busiest days were in the days surrounding the Independence Day holiday period and other peak summer days, before fears of the Delta variant caused travelers to begin booking fewer flights.

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Even though Nov. 29 doesn’t have the highest number of seats scheduled for any pandemic-era day, it could have the highest number of actual travelers based on airline commentary in recent weeks — during conference calls with investors and journalists announcing their quarterly earnings — that demand has once again surged.

The five pandemic days with the fewest seats all had just 700 to 728 seats each day. All were in May 2020 and June 2020. On the other hand, this Thanksgiving might set pandemic-era records, but it won’t come close to all-time records set back in 2019, when — for example — airlines scheduled 6,472 seats on Nov. 30, 2019, which was the Saturday after Thanksgiving that year.

Some information and if you’re traveling by air:

  • You don’t need proof of a negative COVID-19 test to travel domestically. (You do to travel to some international destinations and to return to the U.S.)
  • But some families might decide on their own to get tested before being around each other. Which test should you get? Lion Pharmacy in Red Lion has both rapid (nose swab) tests and PCR tests, which rely on saliva. “The pro of the rapid test is, you get the results in 10 minutes. The con is, it’s only about 75 percent accurate,” said Bethany Miller, the Lion’s owner and pharmacist. “The PCR test is much more accurate. it’s about 99.6 percent accurate.” She said results are available within 48 to 72 hours.
  • Why consider getting a test even if you’re vaccinated? “Even if you’re vaccinated, there’s a possibility of transmitting the virus, so you want to be safe,” Miller said. On the other hand, “if you’re with a group of people where everybody’s vaccinated, then you should be fine.”
  • Everyone who’s more than 2 years old needs to wear a mask in airports and on flights. “It is a mandate,” said Scott Miller, Harrisburg International Airport’s spokesman. “If you get to the airport, or you’re on a train or you’re in a bus, you have to be wearing a mask over your nose and your mouth the entirety of your trip. If you’re not wearing one, and you refuse to wear one, you will not travel.”
  • One rule that’s actually less strict than last time you traveled by air, if you haven’t traveled since before COVID-19: the restrictions on liquids. You’re still limited to a three-ounce bottle for most liquids, but each passenger can bring up to a 12-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer. “That way you can wipe down your seat if you want to and everything like that that’s around you,” Scott Miller said.

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