If you’re planning on flying somewhere for Thanksgiving this year, you might want to rethink your plans. Air travel experts are expecting chaos at airports as TSA employees, who are largely unvaccinated, approach the deadline by which they are supposed to have received their shots.
One of the biggest issues will likely come before you even get on the plane. The Transportation Security Administration says that 40 percent of its workers are currently unvaccinated, and we’re about a month removed from the federal government’s November 22 deadline for federal workers to prove full vaccination. So, it’s safe to expect that a lot of agents will not be available to grope people or whatever around the holidays.
That means that, in some cases, these TSA agents will hit that deadline and still not be fully vaccinated, even if they get the vaccine today. The second dose of the Moderna vaccine, for example, must be taken a month after the first dose, and workers must then wait two weeks before being considered fully vaccinated. The deadline to get the first vaccine in order to be fully vaccinated by November 22 has passed.
Again, November 22 is just three days before Thanksgiving — which are some of the busiest travel days of the year.
Some airlines are also approaching mandatory vaccination dates for staff as well. American Airlines and Jet Blue are requiring that employees based in the United States show proof of full vaccination by November 24, the day before Thanksgiving. According to Capt. Dennis Tajer, a spokesperson for the Allied Pilots Association, 4,000 out of the 14,000 pilots his union represents are currently unvaccinated — or about 28 percent. And that’s not even taking into consideration potentially unvaccinated airline staff that ensure the smooth flow of travel in all other respects.
While its problem wasn’t vaccine-related, Southwest Airlines experienced massive problems due to inclement weather in Florida last weekend — but experts are using it as a potential example of what travel could look like in the wake of mass vaccine-related layoffs. You’re probably going to be facing long waits to check in or go through security. There’s a good chance your flight will be cancelled, rerouted, or rescheduled. All flights are likely to be jam-packed, so getting a different flight might be a challenge.
If you’re going to travel this holiday season, experts are recommending a few different options. First, fly on off-peak days as much as you can, since that gives you a greater likelihood of your flight going as planned or being able to hop on a different flight. Opt for any airline that routes the most flights to your final destination, even if it’s not your airline of choice — again, this will help you have a better chance at actually making a flight even if one gets cancelled. Try to fly as early in the day as you can to take advantage of a full day of flights as backup. And definitely get to the airport early to account for unusually long wait times.