Travel

Millions take to roads, air for US Thanksgiving holiday

November 22, 2012

Passengers wait in a security line at the Salt Lake City international airport in Salt Lake City, Utah, November 21, 2012, a day before the annual Thanksgiving Day holiday. — Reuters picsPassengers wait in a security line at the Salt Lake City international airport in Salt Lake City, Utah, November 21, 2012, a day before the annual Thanksgiving Day holiday. — Reuters picsNEW YORK, Nov 22 — Nearly 44 million Americans are hitting the road for the US Thanksgiving holiday weekend, most by car, with some in the Northeast states hard hit by Superstorm Sandy moving their feast to warmer, drier quarters.

Airports across most of the country faced few delays yesterday, but not Chicago, where thick fog reduced visibility, forcing hundreds of flight delays at the city’s two airports and the cancellation of more than 130 flights in the morning.

At early afternoon Chicago time, passengers flying in and out of O’Hare International Airport faced delays of about 40 minutes. Flights out of Midway had delays of about 45 minutes, according to FlightAware.com, an aviation information company.

In Canada, flights in and out of Winnipeg International were subject to delays of about 25 minutes, FlightAware said.

The “very dense fog” was expected to gradually ease in Chicago, while rain, wind and mountain snow were expected to impede travel in the Pacific Northwest yesterday, the National Weather Service said.

The weather service said the eastern third of the United States was expected to stay dry and pleasant for the holiday.

Christmas in the air at the Salt Lake City international airport.Christmas in the air at the Salt Lake City international airport.AAA expects 43.6 million people to travel 80km or more for the holiday, up about 0.7 per cent from last year — and a fourth consecutive year of growth since the severe 2008 economic downturn cut travel on the holiday by 25 per cent.

“We are on a slow climb back,” AAA New York spokesman Robert Sinclair Jr. said yesterday in a telephone interview. “It’s a climb, but it is a slow one, and perhaps not enough for people to really make a significant commitment to travel.”

VIA Rail Canada is helping Amtrak meet the holiday crush of passengers after Sandy, which flooded several railroad equipment yards in New York and New Jersey. The storm hit New Jersey Transit particularly hard, damaging one-third of its locomotives and a quarter of its passenger cars.

Small decline in air travel

VIA Rail Canada was loaning Amtrak equipment yesterday — the US passenger railroad’s busiest day of the year with an expected 140,000 passengers — said Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving, Amtrak’s second-busiest day of the year, NJ Transit trains were expected to be in place to handle some of the spillover traffic for Amtrak, Kulm said.

AAA believes concessions to the economy could be seen in a 10 per cent reduction in median spending to US$498 (RM1,522) per traveller and a drop in the distance travelled, owing in part to a projected decrease in air travel, Sinclair said.

About 90 per cent of travellers, 39.1 million, were expected to go by car, while air travel was expected to decrease by about 100,000 to 3.14 million travellers, AAA said. About 1.3 million people were expected to travel by all other modes, including rail, bus and cruise ship, it said.

No cancellations or major delays were reported early yesterday morning at Los Angeles International Airport, the nation’s second-busiest behind O’Hare in passenger volume.

“Everything is going more or less normally,” airport spokesman Marshall Lowe told Reuters, adding that motor traffic around the sprawling facility was flowing at posted speed limits, without serious jams.

However, travellers venturing to LAX by car between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. were advised to give themselves an extra 90 minutes owing to heavy congestion expected as a result of a protest planned by hundreds of union airport workers along one of the main roads leading to the airport.

Nearly 1.8 million passengers were expected to pass through LAX in the holiday travel period from yesterday through November 26, a slight increase over last year.

In Chicago, nearly 1.8 million passengers were expected to pass through O’Hare and Midway airports from Tuesday to Tuesday of next week, the city aviation department said. — ReutersAirport workers and union members march towards Los Angeles International Airport, agitating for improved wages and healthcare.Airport workers and union members march towards Los Angeles International Airport, agitating for improved wages and healthcare.