The Myth of the Busy Thanksgiving Airport | WBEZ
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The Myth of the Busy Thanksgiving Airport

How many times have you heard that the day before Thanksgiving is the worst day to be in an airport?

It’s all a lie.

Long fabled as the most nightmarish day in the airport, the day before Thanksgiving came in at 156th at O’Hare last year. That’s behind almost every day in July.

"It's not even the busiest travel day in November," said Tony Molinaro, press officer for the Great Lakes region of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Last year that honor went to the Friday before Veteran's Day. But even that wasn't one of the 30 busiest days in the air, according to industry group Airlines for America.

Despite a longer travel period, which spreads travel out over a greater number of days, Christmas is far busier than Thanksgiving.

But none of it compares to the summer.


"The busiest time of year always happens in July and August," Molinaro said. Families fitting in one last trip before school starts push late summer numbers sky-high. “Usually the top ten days overall are in late summer.”

“Thanksgiving, Christmastime? Not even in the top 25,” said Molinaro.

Part of the reason is that Thanksgiving travelers tend to stick to the ground.

Amtrak reports that Thanksgiving is their biggest season, with more than 750,000 passengers. And with gas prices at their lowest holiday levels in seven years, the American Automobile Association expects almost 90 percent of Thanksgiving travelers will be driving this year. Last year 1.7 million vehicles used the Illinois Tollway on the day before the holiday, with another 1.2 million on Thanksgiving itself.

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