Air travel to set record as 115M Americans travel for holidays: AAA

Friday, December 22, 2023
Holiday rush underway as travelers pack Philly airport
Holiday rush underway as travelers pack Philadelphia International Airport

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Thursday marked the start of the holiday travel period, and AAA estimates airports are expected to be the busiest they have ever been for the holidays.

According to the TSA, the busiest days at airports across the country are expected to be Thursday, December 21, Friday, December 29, and Monday, January 1. On those days, the TSA predicts it will screen more than 2.5 million passengers.

At Philadelphia International Airport, representatives predict the busiest travel days will be (in order) Tuesday, December 26, Wednesday, December 27, and Friday, December 22.

"We're anticipating over a million passengers to pass through PHL, either traveling to Philadelphia or traveling from Philadelphia," Heather Redfern, an airport spokesperson, told Action News.

That means just about everythingat PHL will take longer than normal over the next week and a half as more and more people pass through. You'll need to tap into the holiday spirit to endure these lines at the Philadelphia International Airport.

"When we tell you to get here at least two hours early, get here at least two hours early. We mean it. The lines are going to be long. They're moving. TSA's got everybody moving but you don't want that added stress to your travel," she said.

Redfern is warning fliers to give themselves extra time, especially if they are flying out in the early morning hours. She said that is typically the busiest time in the airport.

"You have to do your homework. You can't just roll up at the airport and expect to get on your plane like you did in the past. Check with your airlines, and sign up for their email and text alerts. That's where the information is going to come on the status of your flight," she said. "So, even if we have great weather here, there could be a mechanical issue, there could be weather somewhere else that's preventing a plane from getting here or being able to leave."

For those of you who decide to park here at the airport, the economy lot will be open and a shuttle will be running all day, everyday.

In total, AAA says 115 million Americans will travel for the Christmas and New Year's holidays. That would make the 2023 year-end travel forecast the second highest since 2000 when AAA began tracking holiday travel.

AAA is projecting that more than 1.3 million Philadelphia-area residents will travel over the year-end holidays.

The majority of those travelers will be driving to their holiday destinations. AAA is projecting that nearly 1.2 million Philadelphia-area residents will be hitting the road, up 2.2% over last year.

Jana Tidwell, of AAA, says Saturday, December 23rd could be the busiest travel day on the roads in the Philadelphia area.

"As we see people traveling to their holiday destination, trying to get there before Christmas Eve, but they're also going to mix with those holiday shoppers, whether it's the malls or the grocery stores on Saturday," she explained.

There is good news for drivers. Gas prices have dropped to levels not seen in more than two years, thanks to the switchover to winter-blended gasoline and the price of crude oil.

"It's been hovering about the $70 per barrel range, and because crude oil remains steady, gas prices follow suit," Tidwell explained.

The national average is $3.12. In Philadelphia, it's $3.41, in South Jersey $3.07 and in Delaware $3.07.

AAA projects more than 92,000 Philadelphia-area residents (more than 7% of local travelers) will travel to their year-end holiday destination by air, an increase of nearly 4% over last year and the highest air travel volume on record for the year-end holidays.

Other modes of travel - cruise ships, busses, and trains - will see a more than 16% increase over last year as nearly 38,000 Philadelphia-area residents utilize those modes of travel during the year-end holidays, according to AAA.

AAA reveals busiest days to travel over holiday weekend