COVID-19: Federal vaccine mandate in effect Monday as TSA employees face Thanksgiving rush

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It’s the busiest time of year for airports: Thanksgiving. The TSA expects around 20 million travelers for the holiday — nearly the same as 2019 before COVID-19.

“O’Hare wasn’t busy at all which surprised us, but Charlotte was much, much busier,” William Rower told Action News Jax after he and his wife landed in Jacksonville.

Rower says JIA was far less busy than what he experienced in Charlotte.

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The Jacksonville Aviation Authority couldn’t give specific numbers on staffing at JIA, but did say it’ll be tight on restaurants and shops in the airport. Two Starbucks workers told Action News Jax they’ve been feeling the shortage firsthand.

Renita Burns hasn’t traveled since before COVID-19; she took no chances with the crowds Monday.

“I did get to the airport early just to be on the safe side, but it was smooth sailing today,” Burns said.

Travelers are asked to pack a little patience for lines that could be longer than usual. You can expect a higher volume at JIA than its 2019 daily record averaging around 10,000 travelers.

And Monday marks the deadline for all federal employees to show that they’re vaccinated against COVID-19.

A TSA spokesperson on Twitter said more than 90 percent of its staff are in compliance. TSA also reminds passengers to expect long lines.

If you’re flying out of Jacksonville, chances are you’ll experience the long lines at major hubs like Atlanta, Dallas, and in Burns’ and Rower’s case, Charlotte.

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“I’m just excited to be here in Florida,” Rower added.

Both he and Burns are happy they made it to Jacksonville quickly and safely.

If you want to beat some of the holiday travel rush, avoid flying on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and the Sunday afterward. The TSA says those are the busiest days for holiday travel.