Friday, December 1, 2023

Eppley Airfield expecting big holiday numbers as over 55 million Americans hit the road

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Over 55 million people will roam 50 miles or more from home over the Thanksgiving holiday, marking the third-highest forecast since AAA Travel began tracking travelers. 

“For many Americans, Thanksgiving and travel go hand in hand, and this holiday, we expect more people on the roads, skies, and seas compared to 2022,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “Travel demand has been strong all year, and AAA’s Thanksgiving forecast reflects that continued desire to get away and spend time with loved ones.”

The travel forecast of 55.4 million people represents an increase of 2.3% over last year and marks the third-highest Thanksgiving forecast since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2000. The top two years are 2005 and 2019, respectively. 

Expectations are that 4.7 million people will fly over Thanksgiving, an increase of 6.6% compared to 2022 and the highest number of Thanksgiving air travelers since 2005. Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving are the busiest air travel days ahead of the holiday and the most expensive. Sunday is typically the busiest day to return home.

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The Omaha Airport Authority said in a press release that Eppley Airfield could see its busiest Thanksgiving travel numbers ever. It’s suggested that travelers arrive two hours prior to departure from the airport.

“Officials at Omaha’s airport expect approximately 181,000 travelers during the next week, approximately 4.7% more than last year,” according to the press release. “At Eppley, the three busiest travel days of the Thanksgiving holiday season are expected to be, in order, Monday, Nov. 27, Tuesday, Nov. 21 and Wednesday, Nov. 22.”

Passenger departure drop-off and arrival pick-up areas are now located on Level 1 of the South Garage due to the construction of the “Terminal Drive & Canopy Project.” Drivers will see signage directing them to the correct lane where they will meet travelers.

Vehicles entering those lanes will not be charged parking fees. Drivers picking up arriving passengers can use one of two free cell phone lots, north and south of the terminal, to wait until their guests are ready to be picked up.

Most Thanksgiving travelers, about 49.1 million, will drive to their destinations. That is an increase of 1.7% compared to 2022.

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights founded in 2004, expects Wednesday to be the busiest day on the roads with average travel times rising to as high as 80% over normal times. INRIX recommends leaving in the morning or after 6 p.m. to avoid the heaviest holiday congestion.

“The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously one of the most congested days on our roadways. Travelers should be prepared for long delays, especially in and around major metros,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help minimize holiday traffic frustrations. We advise drivers to use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services for real-time updates.”

Drivers could be paying less for gas than last Thanksgiving when the national average was $3.58. This year, the national average peaked in mid-August at $3.87 and has been coming down since, despite global tensions causing ripples through the oil market. 

The national average for a gallon of regular gas on Monday, according to AAA, was $3.30. The average price of regular gallon of gas Monday in Nebraska was $3.10. 

Omaha reported the lowest average per gallon on Monday at $2.89 while Columbus was at $2.95 and Lincoln averaged $3.28. Further west, Grand Island reported $3.01, Kearney was at $3.43 and North Platte recorded $3.46. 

The number of people traveling by cruise, bus, and train over Thanksgiving is up nearly 11% over last year. The AAA prediction is that 1.55 million travelers will head out of town using those  modes of transportation., 402-444-1272

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