Expect holiday travel crowds: Nearly half of Americans planning a trip

September 1, 2023 Atlanta: Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport’s domestic atrium was full of long lines of travelers waiting to go through security on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023. The holiday travel period running through the Tuesday after Labor Day will bring more than 300,000 passengers a day through the Atlanta airport on peak days and Friday was expected to be the busiest day of the Labor Day travel period, with 330,000 passengers passing through the Atlanta airport. That includes nearly 94,000 departing travelers that was expected at security checkpoints. For the Transportation Security Administration, passenger volumes through Hartsfield-Jackson checkpoints have made 2023 so far the busiest year on record, said Robert Spinden, TSA’s federal security director in Atlanta. Drivers taking road trips this Labor Day weekend will likely see gas prices similar to last year when the national average for a gallon of regular was $3.78. Prices at the pump won’t deter some drivers, including those who will begin the holiday weekend even earlier. Many travelers plan to escape from the heat. “Most travelers will leave on Thursday or Friday before Labor Day to take advantage of the long holiday weekend,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “Domestically, the Pacific Northwest, big cities like New York and Denver, and tourist hotspots like Orlando and Las Vegas are the most popular. Internationally, it’s all about Europe and Canada.” For those taking road trips, plan ahead and leave early to avoid the congestion that will build as the weekend approaches, experts advise. And whether driving a vehicle or boat, remember to be well-rested and alert. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

September 1, 2023 Atlanta: Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport’s domestic atrium was full of long lines of travelers waiting to go through security on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023. The holiday travel period running through the Tuesday after Labor Day will bring more than 300,000 passengers a day through the Atlanta airport on peak days and Friday was expected to be the busiest day of the Labor Day travel period, with 330,000 passengers passing through the Atlanta airport. That includes nearly 94,000 departing travelers that was expected at security checkpoints. For the Transportation Security Administration, passenger volumes through Hartsfield-Jackson checkpoints have made 2023 so far the busiest year on record, said Robert Spinden, TSA’s federal security director in Atlanta. Drivers taking road trips this Labor Day weekend will likely see gas prices similar to last year when the national average for a gallon of regular was $3.78. Prices at the pump won’t deter some drivers, including those who will begin the holiday weekend even earlier. Many travelers plan to escape from the heat. “Most travelers will leave on Thursday or Friday before Labor Day to take advantage of the long holiday weekend,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “Domestically, the Pacific Northwest, big cities like New York and Denver, and tourist hotspots like Orlando and Las Vegas are the most popular. Internationally, it’s all about Europe and Canada.” For those taking road trips, plan ahead and leave early to avoid the congestion that will build as the weekend approaches, experts advise. And whether driving a vehicle or boat, remember to be well-rested and alert. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Nearly half of Americans plan to travel over the holidays this year, according to a new survey — meaning millions of travelers will be battling busy and congested roads, airports and planes.

The 48% of Americans planning a trip for Thanksgiving or the year-end holidays is up significantly from 31% last year, according to the survey released Wednesday by consulting firm Deloitte.

Of those who are planning to travel over the holidays, more than 37% plan to fly, the survey results showed. Most are planning road trips.

Just 11% of people were deterred from travel because of concerns about health risks, down from 18% last year.

Instead, the top reason for people not to travel was money concerns, with 38% of those not taking a trip saying they cannot afford it.

The results are based on a survey of 5,281 Americans September 12-25, of which 2,531 respondents had plans to travel for the holidays.

The rise of remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic has driven shifts in travel patterns, with one-third of those who are going to travel saying they’re likely to work during long trips over the holidays.

Eileen Crowley, vice chair of U.S. transportation, hospitality and services at Deloitte, said “laptop luggers continue to leverage flexible work arrangements,” in a written statement. That allows them to extend their trips.

The large numbers of holiday travelers will bring heavy traffic to the highways and put a strain on the world’s busiest airport.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has already been packed with some long lines winding through the terminal in recent weeks, as the rebound in travel brings a near record number of passengers through security checkpoints on busy days.

Airport and security officials expect they could see record numbers of passengers passing through Transportation Security Administration screening during the busy Thanksgiving travel period, just three weeks away.

Congress will also be rushing to pass funding bills to avoid a federal government shutdown before their November 17 appropriations deadline, just days before Thanksgiving.

“Usually the Wednesday before and the Sunday after (Thanksgiving) are some of the two single heaviest days” for travel, said Robert Spinden, TSA’s federal security director in Atlanta.

What’s more, a major airport parking construction project has also significantly reduced the number of parking spaces next to the Atlanta airport’s domestic terminal. The airport closed its South economy lot Oct. 23 to build a parking deck on the site. That has led to many of the remaining parking decks and lots reaching capacity during busy periods.

About 11% of respondents to the Deloitte survey cited concerns about health risks as a key reason for not traveling over the holidays this year.