Holiday travelers taking to roads, skies

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SALT LAKE CITY -- With thousands of people heading out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday, Wednesday is expected to be a busy travel day. AAA projects over 38 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home over the holiday weekend. That means many Utahns are gearing up for a road trip or drive to the airport.

As passengers arrived at the Salt Lake International Airport Wednesday morning, they were pleasantly surprised to find the dreaded holiday lines were moving along quite quickly.

Traveler Daniel Dalton said, "It actually wasn't as bad as we were expecting."

"We're pretty much on schedule," said traveler Allison Rex.

According to AAA, Thanksgiving travel is expected to increase 1.4 percent from last year. Airlines, however, are expecting to see a 6.7 percent decrease in the number of passengers this year, continuing a decade-long trend in declining Thanksgiving air travel.

"We didn't hold back at all," said John Rex. "We were ready to get away from school a little bit and go on vacation."

Like John and Allison, many travelers didn't want to hold back this year and felt taking to the skies was either more convenient or more cost effective than driving.

**Thanksgiving Air Travel** Since 2000, the number of Americans traveling by air during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend has dropped 62 percent. - *Source: AAA*

AAA says much of the decrease can be attributed to ongoing economic difficulties, stricter airport security, more frequent flight delays, and added surcharges and fees.

The number of travelers by automobile is up just over 2 percent at 33.2 million this year compared to 32.5 million last year. According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, airfare, lodging and rental car costs all will be lower this year.

The lowest average published airfares over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is expected to decrease 4 percent from last year to an average of $170 per round-trip ticket. Car rental rates are also down 3 percent.

Thanksgiving travelers are expected to spend approximately $718 per household over this weekend. It's no surprise that food and beverage will absorb 21 percent of that spending. Shopping will account for 16 percent, and entertainment and recreation about 10 percent.

Although many flights may be packed with passengers, a USA Today analysis shows this isn't really the busiest time of the year to fly.

The 2007 study showed the Wednesday before Thanksgiving actually was the 36th busiest day of the year, nationwide. Experts say many summer days are far busier at airports.

Analysts also say airlines have become very sophisticated in setting rates that push a lot of travelers to other days around the holiday.

For air travel tips, see the links on this page.


Story compiled with information from Andrew Adams and Shara Park .

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