(CNN) -- Aviation authorities are gearing up for a busy holiday travel season by clearing skies normally reserved for military aircraft in an effort to make room for more unfettered commercial travel.
In a deal with the U.S. Defense Department, air traffic controllers will begin routing commercial aircraft through the restricted airspace starting at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, according to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration.
"We want to do everything we can to make it easier for people to travel so they can spend Thanksgiving with their loved ones," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We appreciate the military's help in making this happen."
The seasonal change is happening one day earlier than usual this year, the statement said, in an effort to ease delays during one of the busiest travel periods of the year.
Under the agreement, DOD will release airspace off the East Coast above 24,000 feet, it said, saving time and money for passengers and airlines while reducing fuel consumption.
"The FAA is using all the tools available to try and give airlines the most efficient routes so air travelers can reach their destinations safely and on time," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in the statement.
Thursday's announcement comes amid controversy over heightened transport security measures that critics say are invasive.
Transportation Security Administration head John Pistole testified on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, telling lawmakers that his agency is "using technology and protocols to stay ahead of the [terrorist] threat and keep you safe."
Aviation authorities say their efforts attempt to balance passenger safety with improved commercial travel.