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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

You didn’t think Summer travel It would be easy, wouldn’t it?

Highways and airports are likely to be busy in the next few days as Americans head out for Memorial Day weekend and then return home.

AAA expects it to be the busiest early summer weekend in nearly 20 years, with 43.8 million people expected to travel at least 50 miles from home between Thursday and Monday. The Transportation Security Administration says as many as 3 million may pass through Through airport checkpoints On Friday alone.

This is just a sample of what is to come. American airlines We expect it to carry Record number of passengers this summer. Their trade group estimates that 271 million passengers will travel by air between June 1 and August 31, breaking the record of 255 million. last summer.

The annual expression of wanderlust is happening at a time Americans are telling pollsters They are worried About the economy and the direction of the country.

It may be beneficial to slow down, and in some cases reverse, the large price increases of the past two years.

Airfare prices are down 6% and hotel prices are down 0.4% compared to last year, according to Government figures Released last week. Car or truck rental prices have decreased by 10%. The price of gas nationwide is about $3.60 a gallon, about 6 cents higher than last year, according to AAA.

Johannes Thomas, CEO of hotel and travel search company Trivago, said he believes more customers are feeling the pinch of prices that have stabilized but… At much higher levels than it was before the pandemic. He said they are booking further in advance, staying closer to home, taking shorter trips, and compromising on accommodations – staying in three-star hotels rather than five-star hotels.

Many travelers have their own cost-saving strategies, including combining business and pleasure on the same trip.

“I’ve largely been able to adapt by traveling at odd hours. I’ll fly late at night, come early in the morning, and stay longer than I would otherwise,” said Lauren Hartl, of Boston, an investor in a clean energy company. “I intend to work remotely.”

Hartle, who traveled from Boston to Dallas on Wednesday for a work conference, plans to attend a summer family gathering in North Carolina, but is otherwise considering trips closer to home — perhaps by train instead of plane.

Katie Chast, a nanny and piano teacher in Maine, said her flight between Boston and Dallas cost $386 round-trip. “It wasn’t terrible,” she said, but it was more than the $200 to $300 she had paid in the past to visit her family in Texas.

Schast is planning a beach vacation in Florida in July. The high prices could discourage her from taking further trips, but “if I really want to go somewhere, I’m more the kind of person who can make it happen, as long as I have time off work.” “.

As has been the case in years past, most vacation travelers are expected to travel by car — more than 38 million of them, according to AAA. The organization advises motorists hoping to avoid the worst of the traffic to leave urban areas early on Thursday and Friday and to stay off the roads between 3pm and 7pm on Sunday and Monday.

“We have not seen any decline in travel since the pandemic. “Year over year, we have seen these numbers continue to grow,” AAA spokeswoman Axa Diaz said. “We don’t know when it will stop. There is no sign of that yet.”

There is certainly no slowdown at airports. The number of people passing through security checkpoints increased by 3.2% this year. Transportation Security Administration It said it screened 2.85 million people last Friday and nearly as much as Sunday — the busiest days of the year so far.

The Transportation Security Administration expects it will screen more than 18 million passengers and flight crew members during the seven-day period beginning Thursday, an increase of 6.4% from last year. Friday is expected to be the busiest day for air travel, with nearly 3 million people passing through checkpoints. The TSA record is 2.91 million, which was set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“We are going to break these records this summer,” said TSA Administrator David Pekosky.

The agency, which was created after the September 11 terrorist attacks, has at times suffered from peak times. Pekoski told The Associated Press that pay increases for front-line screening workers have helped improve staffing by reducing attrition from more than 20% to less than 10%.

The airlines say they have also staffed up since they were unable to do so when travel began to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring and summer of 2022.

As weather conditions improve, travelers could see fewer flights canceled than in recent summers. So far this year, U.S. airlines have canceled 1.2% of their flights, according to FlightAware data, compared to 1.4% at this point last year and 2.8% in 2022 — a performance so poor that it has drawn complaints and increased scrutiny from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. .

But even before the weekend began, storms caused widespread flight cancellations at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, US Airways’ largest hub. The company had canceled more than 200 flights, or 5% of its schedule, by late afternoon.

The stranded travelers were not happy.

“Our flight was canceled right before check-in. Now there are no flights here until Friday because (open seats on other flights) went by so fast. We might end up driving. Isn’t that terrible?” said Rosie Gutierrez of Allen, Texas, who was trying to get to Florida with her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

David Seymour, American Airlines’ chief operating officer, said the airline has beefed up its staffing and technology to prepare for the seasonal rush.

“It’s a long summer, but we’re ready for it. We have the right resources,” he said.

American is presenting its most ambitious summer schedule ever – 690,000 flights between May 17 and September 3.

United Airlines expects its biggest Memorial Day weekend, with passenger numbers up nearly 10% from last year. Delta Air Lines expects to carry 5% more passengers this weekend, kicking off its heaviest summer schedule ever among international flights.

According to AAA, the best domestic and international destinations are familiar destinations. They include Orlando, Las Vegas, London, Paris and Rome.

What about tensions about the economy?

It’s important to note that people often say their finances are better than average. In a February AP poll, 54% said they The personal situation was good – But only 30% felt the same about the country’s economy.

This could explain why they are able to spend on travel.

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Rebecca Santana and Rick Gentello in Washington contributed to this report.

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