Before we get into what airlines are doing to celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s first look at the holiday and see how it came to be. Born out of the English Reformation during the reign of Henry VIII, Days of Thanksgiving were declared to celebrate great triumphs like the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the failure of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot.

The annual holiday celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November can trace its roots back to 1619. On December 4th, 37 English settlers came ashore in Virginia and declared their safe arrival a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God. More familiar to most Americans is the tale of the Pilgrim fathers and their Thanksgiving festival to thank god for their bountiful harvest in 1621. The Pilgrims celebrated the harvest with the local Wampanoags, a tribe of Native Americans who had given them food the previous winter. On November 26, 1789, President George Washington declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, calling on all Americans to unite and give thanks for what they had.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that unites families

Today the tradition remains one of America’s favorite holidays, with festive seasonal food and NFL football on afternoon television. This year, Thanksgiving travel is expected to be busier than ever following two years of travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

US airlines at LAX airport getty

Photo: Getty Images 

While airlines have built back capacity to meet the anticipated demand, more is needed to cater to the number of people who plan to travel. For Thanksgiving travel in 2022, airports expect an increase of 6% over the levels seen in 2019. Historically the Sunday before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days, with around 3.3 million people on the move. However, on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, travel experts predict that as many as 3.4 million people will be returning home from their trips.

To accommodate the extra volume, United Airlines said it had added 275 flights on Sunday to meet the increased demand.

According to bookings, Atlanta, Dallas Forth-Worth, and Denver will be the busiest airports this Thanksgiving, with over a million travelers expected to pass through their concourses. Additionally, people flying out of Newark and Miami should expect delays as these two airports faired the worst last Thanksgiving. Chicago Midway and Houston also saw some disruptions, so arrive early and expect long lines and possible delays.

Where can you get turkey in the sky?

While you cannot expect Thanksgiving meals on low-cost American carriers, some full-service American carriers may offer roast turkey and trimmings meals on their long-haul Thanksgiving Day flights. Having said that, it is not a tradition that the big three, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines, have stuck with, so it could be hit-and-miss. Hawaiian Airlines have tweeted that they will be offering Turkey dinners on their flights over Thanksgiving.

Several global full-service carriers offer Thanksgiving meals on flights two and from the United States.Dubai-based Emirates offers a traditional Thanksgiving meal of roast Turkey, cranberry sauce, and traditional vegetables in all its USA lounges and in all classes of service on select flights on November 24th and 25th.

In 2016 another Gulf carrier, Qatar Airways, began offering Thanksgiving meals on flights between Doha and the United States. Currently, the airline is busy flying people to the 2022 World Cup, so it will be interesting to see if they have a special meal promotion this year.

Emirates economy class Thanksgiving meal.

Photo: Emirates

Abu Dhabi-based Emirates has also offered Thanksgiving meals in the past, so you may get lucky if you are flying with them over the Holidays. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have also been known to offer thanksgiving meals on their flights to and from the United States over the Thanksgiving holiday.


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