Airport officials debunk the infamous Thanksgiving travel myth

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Thursday, is a very important day in American culture.

Not only is that the night small-town bars welcome their wayward sons and daughters home for a night out down memory lane, but this Wednesday is often considered the busiest travel day of the year.

With many Americans living far away from where they grew up, the conventional theory is that they tend to fly back to their hometowns the day before the holiday, which creates bottlenecks at airports.

But Bay Area airport officials say they disagree.
It’s a common misconception that the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year, said Scott Winterner, a spokesman for San Jose International Airport.
“Maybe that’s true of some airports, but I’ve been working with airports for 20 years, and that has never been the case,” he said. “By and large, if anything, it’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving. That’s when everyone wants to go back to work or school on the Monday.”
Up on the peninsula from San Jose, San Francisco International Airport spokesperson Doug Yakel agrees with that assessment and said the very different season tends to see more travel than the holidays.
“Contrary to popular opinion,” he said, “the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is not the busiest day of the year for us.” The honor usually goes to summer holidays, such as the Fourth of July or Labor Day. why? Because airlines tend to operate more flights during the summer season than during the holidays.”

Yeckle added that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving isn’t even the busiest day for Thanksgiving travel.
“That honor belongs to the Friday before Thanksgiving week. Why? Because schools in California give students the entire Thanksgiving week off, so most families don’t wait until the day before Thanksgiving to travel…they take a week out of it.”
At Oakland International Airport, company spokeswoman Callie Skantz explained that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is already a busy travel day and can hardly beat the busiest day of the week in terms of traffic.

“OAK expects 170,000 passengers during the Wednesday-Sunday Thanksgiving travel period,” it said. “We usually see from our numbers that the Wednesday and Sunday after Thanksgiving are the busiest traveling days of the holiday. They often come very close to each other; Wednesday barely outsold Sunday by 100.”
Regardless of which day tends to draw the most travelers, it’s fair to assume that any day during the holiday week will see an increase in numbers, so it’s best to plan ahead and be prepared.
“Bottom line,” Winterner said, “if you’re traveling during Thanksgiving week and around the holidays, expect it to be busy.”

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