CBS News November 21, 2018, 7:06 AM Small army of employees works tirelessly in "Super Bowl" of holiday travel
The Thanksgiving getaway is officially underway, with more than 54 million people expected on the roads, rails and in the air this week – the most since 2005, according to AAA. The largest growth in holiday travel is expected to be by air. More than four million people are expected to fly this week, up more than 5 percent from last year.
Chicago's O'Hare International Airport expects to see more than two million travelers over the Thanksgiving holiday travel season. Lines will be long and patience will be tested, but employees are working tirelessly to get planes away from the gate and into the sky as quickly as possible.
The McCain family is flying from Chicago to Denver for Thanksgiving at grandpa's, reports CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave.
"We wanted to avoid the craziness of tomorrow," Clark McCain said. "Traveling with children is a challenge. Anything we could do to minimize the disruptions is what we want to do."
But to get them and the rest of the 2.2 million people who will fly United to their destinations on time takes a small army. Milo Mical is a flight fixer of sorts.
"I'm the runner. I always run from gate to gate answering calls and radio, people calling me," Mical said.
The customer service supervisor races through O'Hare, taking care of everything from computer issues to getting the right people on board.
"I remember one time a few years ago, it was actually around Thanksgiving, I walked 12 miles during my shift," Mical said.
On Sunday, United will operate a record 679 flights out of Chicago, enough to fly 71,000 people home. Their status will be monitored in their airport operation center.
"Is the Thanksgiving holiday kind of your Super Bowl?" Van Cleave asked.
"It is. It's one of the busiest times of the year it's really an opportunity for us to connect people," said Mike Hanna, vice president of United's O'Hare operations.
Getting the 50,000 or so bags a day transferred and loaded will be a family affair this Thanksgiving.
"You're helping other people get to where they want to go," Karen Perreira said. She and her sons, Chris and Geoff, will be working the ramp together.
In addition to making sure passengers have a seamless travel experience this Thanksgiving, American Airlines is dressing up its terminal at O'Hare for the holidays. Employees spent the overnight hours this week installing hand-made decorations to brighten up a busy travel season.
This Sunday is again expected to be the busiest travel day of the year. As many as three million flyers could pass through TSA checkpoints. That could be a record.