Holiday travel and potential worker strikes puts airlines to the test

OAKLAND, Calif. - Steady streams of airline passengers were at airports Monday, trying to avoid the mid-week, mad holiday rush. The scene last year at Oakland International Airport was quite different and discouraging.

The U.S. transportation system is about to be put to the test.

Before the traditional holiday travel season ends in mid-January, very close to half of all Americans will travel by planes, trains, boats, buses and by automobile. Almost 5 million will take to the skies. Though international travel is slightly more expensive, domestic airline tickets are slightly cheaper than last year, down about 13%.

That's because domestic airlines have scheduled more flights, planes and crews.

"So far, 2023 has seen the lowest cancelation rate in the last five years, at just 1.3%. It's much lower than last year. It's lower even than before the pandemic," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Weather notwithstanding, there's a reason that the airlines are likely to do better. It has to do with fines, penalties, refunds, food and lodging rules that didn't exist just a year ago. "Yeah, I do think they get what happened and they made changes. It even seems like there was extra help on the plane making sure they got what they needed," said passenger Nicole Meyer. "I think they have come back really good for especially this busy time for the holidays," said passenger Clara Grossman.

<strong>(Matt Rexroad via Storyful)</strong>
(Matt Rexroad via Storyful)

One major spoiler: bad weather; something airline passengers know all too well. "I don't think they can control the weather. That's gonna be their issue, in runways and snow," said passenger Donna Cohen.

SEE ALSO: Here are tips for Thanksgiving travelers before enjoying the big holiday meal

Heavy rain, snow and winds are expected in the Northeast, East and especially the South with severe storms and possible tornadoes, all affecting flights and land travel the rest of this week.

The other major spoiler: if 26,000 American Airlines flight attendants actually go on strike, or more likely, if they or other employees of other airlines decide to a have a bout of the 'no fly flu.' "I saw the pilots, they have glue on badges on their suitcases that say, 'ready to strike.' Like, ooh, I didn't know we were in that place right now," said Donna Cohen's husband.

By comparison, holocaust survivor Clara Grossman says delays or, canceled flights, is little to worry about. "I just hope and pray for peace in this world," she said.