Holiday travel: Airlines prepare for passenger influx

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(NewsNation Now) — The holiday travel season is approaching fast.

Americans are once again planning to fly in a big way in the coming months, as experts are predicting travel this season will reach pre-pandemic levels.

“The airlines are preparing for this,” Sarah Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said during an appearance on “Morning in America“. “We didn’t really have that last holiday season. But with the vaccine, people are feeling confident about traveling and being with family members. And we do expect quite high numbers.”

U.S. air travel dropped significantly in 2020 as COVID-19 hammered the airline industry.

“It’s been very difficult,” Nelson who represents 50,000 flight attendants at 17 different airlines, said of working conditions. “Over the last year and a half, we’ve been concerned about bringing illness home to our families. And we’ve been on the front lines of this pandemic. Since the very first days, we’ve had the stress of potentially losing our jobs and working very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen, keep our industry intact.”

So what will be the major differences this time holiday season?

“You can expect that there’s likely going to be long lines, Nelson said. “Most people are traveling as leisure travelers, many of them have not been in airports for a very long time. So do pack your patience.”

“Make sure that you’re packing an empty bag so that you’re not inadvertently putting some of those prohibited items in your bag, slowing yourself down at security and everyone else,” she said.

“And have your mask on,” Nelson reminded. “You’ve got to keep it on throughout the entire experience.”

Flight crews working amid the pandemic have previously reported an uptick in unruly behavior since January. In September, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had even stated that reports of unruly passengers were coming in at twice the rate they were reported at the end of 2020.

Since January 2021, the FAA has confirmed reports of at least 4,837 such incidents of bad behavior, the majority of which involve passengers refusing to comply with mask mandates.

“So when we’re going to work today, we’re very much on the lookout for these potential problems,” Nelson said. “We really do ask people to come to the airport with the idea of kindness in their hearts and to act as helpers and to lift up really the spirit that we’re all in this together to get through this magical experience of flight that takes us all following the rules.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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