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Thanksgiving Weekend Expected to be Busiest in Aviation's History

Aired November 21, 2000 - 1:43 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Time is scarce, tempers are short, and guess what? Labor woes now; and now we're heading into one heck of a Thanksgiving travel weekend. The AAA predicts record numbers of us will hit the road in the coming days. Of almost 39 million people traveling over this holiday, 31.6 will be driving; another 7.3 million will be going there by airplane, train or by bus.

CNN's Jim Morelli looks at what you may encounter if you plan on trying to catch a flight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM MORELLI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A combination of forces is coming together this Thanksgiving weekend that could affect your air travel plans. First, there's the anticipated volume: more than 2 million flyers expected in one day.

MICHAEL WASCOM, AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION: This Sunday, after Thanksgiving, is expected to set the record for the busiest travel day in the history of U.S. aviation.

MORELLI: Then there are the labor troubles. At nearly every major airline in the country, some group of employees is unhappy. At Delta, it's the pilots. Some are declining to work overtime and the airline is now warning passengers to expect delays and cancellations this weekend.

At United, it's the mechanics. The airline accuses them of engineering a slowdown, causing numerous flight cancellations. The union denies it.

(on camera): Regardless, United now has a court order to prevent what it's calling illegal job actions, and it does address the issue of union-engineered slowdowns.

(voice-over): The notice also states it, in no way, is meant to have any impact upon each mechanic's usual diligence in providing safety for all aircraft.

If labor problems at any airline do cause your flight to be canceled, you could be stranded.

TERRY TRIPPLER, ONETRAVEL.COM: When an airline cancels a flight due to shortage of labor or weather -- they both fall into the same category -- it is called a force measure event. And, unfortunately, according to the rules, if a flight is canceled due to a force measure event, all bets are off.

MORELLI: The airline has no obligation to put you on another flight, nor to provide a hotel room or a meal. But they do have one responsibility:

TRIPPLER: They must refund your ticket if you request a refund; and this applies to nonrefundable tickets, too.

MORELLI: Of course, giving up your ticket might mean giving up your weekend out of town. Most planes will be flying at full capacity through the holiday, though space may be available Thanksgiving Day itself.

But with so many people traveling, last-minute bargains could be hard to find. Those who make it to their destination this weekend might want to call the airline once off the plane -- leaving a number where you can be reached is the surest way of being informed of a cancellation or delay on the return trip.

Jim Morelli, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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