MIAMI — Travel nationwide over the Thanksgiving period is expected to increase by more than 11 percent to 42.2 million people, according to projections from the American Automobile Association.
Air travel, which has been in a slump for the past couple of years as recession stymied the nation, is projected to increase by 3.5 percent across the country. AAA is predicting 1.6 million leisure travelers will fly from or within the U.S. during the five-day stretch beginning Wednesday.
Add rigorous new security measures, which might be unfamiliar to infrequent fliers, and the end result for travelers will be longer-than-usual waits for more-thorough-than-usual screenings to get on fuller-than-usual planes.
“People should expect the unexpected during the holiday travel period,” said Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood (Fla.) International Airport spokesman Greg Meyer.
They definitely should be prepared for scrutiny at security checkpoints, where the Transportation Security Administration has installed 400 full-body scanners at 68 airports around the country.
The scanners, along with more intrusive pat-downs, have drawn some loud opposition on websites and in the media, and some groups have threatened to boycott the new machines on Nov. 24, the busy travel day before Thanksgiving, which could add further delays.
The Air Transport Association expects 24 million people to fly on U.S. airlines between Nov. 19 and 30. That number includes all travelers, not just leisure, and counts as one passenger every time a person gets on a plane — even if it’s a connecting flight.
Though Thanksgiving is a busy holiday for flying, millions of travelers are also expected to drive to their destination. AAA projections call for an increase of about 12 percent in auto travel nationally, to 39.7 million people; in Florida, about 2.1 million people are expected to drive more than 50 miles from home, up 11.6 percent.
That’s despite gas prices that are expected to be about 25 cents more expensive per gallon than last year. Regular unleaded will cost between $2.85 and $2.95 a gallon.