The Travel Detective

Travel Detective Blog: The Trouble With Traveling Near Thanksgiving

Locations in this article:  Sydney, Australia

airportIf you think it’s too soon to talk about Turkey Day, you’re wrong. It’s less than a month away. That’s right, November 22 is Thanksgiving. And that means Wednesday, November 21 will be the busiest travel day of the year.

If anybody plans on traveling that Wednesday, don’t come crying to me when it’s over. Because you’ll be doing your own remake of Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

You will be suffering along with everybody else, and so will your pocketbook. Airfares are skyrocketing for that day and the Sunday following Thanksgiving.

Do yourself a favor, and do your pocketbook a favor. Understand that Thanksgiving is nothing more than a dysfunctional family get-together.

Leave at 6 o’clock on Thanksgiving morning. You’ll get to where you need to go in time to carve the turkey, see your demented uncle, your sick aunt, and all your other crazy relatives who push all your buttons.

Carve the turkey, have the meal, stay the night, and on Friday, you’ve got to go home.

That’s another day that no one is flying—in fact, you could go bowling on the plane.

And guess what happens? You save money, you did your family obligation thing, and … the weekend belongs to you. You get to relax in the comfort of your own home and watch as millions of Americans suffer on their way home.

Plus, the airfares aren’t bad. There’s an ad for Southwest Airlines: If you fly on Thanksgiving Day or that Friday, you return on the following Tuesday, and they will fly you one way, for $119 or less. Compare that with $700 fares on Thanksgiving weekend, and well, you can do the math.

Speaking of Southwest, they’re launching streamlined boarding procedures. Remember the old days, when you got an A, B and C pass, and you stood in line?

Well, you’re still going to stand in line, but now they’re going to give you an A pass with a number. Now you get to stand in line in your right number. I think there will be fights breaking out to see who has what number. It’s going to be weird. But they’re doing it.

In fact, they’re spending almost $39 million to implement the new system. So it’ll be interesting to see how giving you a number on a boarding pass will cost $39 million. You’re not getting a boarding pass; you’re getting a boarding number. There’s still no assigned seating.

By the way, I have not been on a plane this week that wasn’t delayed. This week, they had a meeting with the Department of Transportation at JFK, with all the airlines. They came out with a proposal. What they’d like to do, as soon as possible, is cut 20 percent of all flights at Kennedy.

Great idea, as long as they cut them at the right times and the airlines use the right equipment. But the airlines aren’t happy with that at all. Even though it’s the fourth quarter now, and they’re cutting back flights seasonally, they all want to increase flights next summer. And here we’ll go again, just like last summer. That’s the first thing that happened.

But here’s the reason you might be delayed at Kennedy: Eighteen people were arrested this week, charged with drug smuggling and they all worked at JFK. They were all the baggage handlers. So if the airlines lost your bags, it’s because, well, somebody was using it for something else! These eighteen people were arrested by customs and immigration for this drug-smuggling plot. They worked at Delta and American. We’ll see what happens. It’s usually the first of a number of arrests that are made.

This week, Singapore Airlines, on October 25, starts service from Singapore to Sydney on the Airbus 380. This is the super, super, super jumbo jet. I flew the first flight of the A380 from Frankfurt to JFK for a piece on the Today show. This plane has been certified to hold 853 passengers. Talk about waiting for your bags on that mother! Well, 18 months behind schedule, billions of dollars of delays – and when I say billions, I’m talking over $7 billion in delays – they’re finally up and running.

They’re finally taking off on October 25 from Singapore to Sydney. The good news for those flying Singapore Airlines, there won’t be 853 people on board. It holds 471 people. But the cool thing is that if you’ve got enough money to spend on first class, there are 12 “Singapore suites” on this plane. There are private cabins with sliding doors, and the beds are double beds. Talk about the seven-mile-high club. It’s not the one-mile-high club. If it were the mile-high club; that would mean you’re landing. It’s the seven-mile-high club.

There are 23-inch video monitors in each cabin, AC power cords, two USB ports. Why even get off the plane. Then again, do you know what the ticket is? It’s between $8,000 and $12,000. So you’d better bring somebody you really love, or someone who is really rich to fly with you on that plane.

Remember, that doesn’t mean the Airbus 380 is going to be success. We’re talking about delays. We’re talking huge delays.

And all these airlines that took orders on them are now going out and buying Boeing planes because they can’t make their delivery schedules.

We heard what happened last week: Boeing has delayed their 787 by at least six months. Try a year. So we may be stuck on the old MD80 for quite a while. But if you happen to be going from Singapore to Sydney this week, and you’ve got a lot of money, relax in style in the double beds. Can’t beat that.

By Peter Greenberg for