Busy Labor Day travel weekend ahead for metro Atlanta

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Hartsfield-Jackson expects 1.6 million passengers for holiday weekend

Labor Day weekend is expected to bring a rush of traffic on the roads and in the skies as the last holiday of this year’s busy and tumultuous summer travel season.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport expects to handle 1.6 million passengers over the Labor Day travel period from Thursday through Tuesday, Sept. 6.

The Atlanta airport said Friday is likely to be the busiest day of the travel period, with more than 300,000 passengers expected.

Airport officials advise travelers to be in the airport terminal at least two hours before departure.

The airport’s forecast indicates bigger crowds for Labor Day than last year, when travel was stymied by the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19 and the holiday period drew about 1.3 million passengers.

Other busier holiday weekends have brought larger crowds this summer, including Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and other carriers have struggled to keep flights operating on time when weather disruptions threw schedules into disarray, causing flight cancellations and travel disruptions during some of the busiest periods. Delta said it has worked this summer to restore its operational reliability.

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

The hassles of air travel have prompted some to decide to drive instead of fly, according to one survey.

About 32% of those surveyed by AAA said they plan to travel for Labor Day weekend, and of those, 82% plan to drive.

It’s not unusual for most people to drive for holiday weekend trips instead of flying. But a Cars.com survey also found that 52% of travelers who typically prefer to fly are going to drive because of high air fares and airline disruptions.

The average price for a domestic flight is $372, up 20% from this time last year, according to online travel site Kayak.

But road trips face their own challenges, with gas prices that are higher than last year. The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Georgia was $3.35 on Tuesday afternoon, nearly 15% higher than a year ago, but down from a summer peak of $4.49, according to GasBuddy.com.

Among those who do not plan to travel for Labor Day, nearly 25% in the Cars.com survey cited high gas prices as the reason for not traveling. High fuel prices deterred more travelers from hitting the road during the July Fourth travel period when the average price of unleaded was around $4.30 a gallon.

Atlanta has a number of major Labor Day weekend events that draw local residents staying in town and visitors from afar. The big events including Dragon Con and Atlanta Black Pride celebrations throughout the weekend, and the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games on Saturday and Monday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

In anticipation of Labor Day weekend traffic congestion, the Georgia Department of Transportation said it is suspending lane closures on Georgia interstates and state routes from noon Friday until 5 a.m. Tuesday.

GDOT said it expects the heaviest traffic on Friday, with moderate traffic expected Thursday and Saturday and light traffic on Sunday and Monday.