Thanksgiving travel expected to rise

By Staff
Jonathan Willis
AAA projected 38.4 million Americans will be traveling 50 miles or more away from home over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, marking a 1.4 percent increase over last year when 37.8 million traveled.
The number of travelers by automobile is expected to be 33.2 million in 2009 compared to 32.5 million last year; an increase of 2.1 percent. The number of travelers by air is expected to be 2.3 million compared to 2.5 million in 2008; a decline of 6.7 percent.
Last year, Thanksgiving travel dropped 25.2 percent in the wake of the ongoing housing and financial crisis. This year's expected increase in travel reflects improved consumer confidence from one year ago, better financial market performance and a growing sense among many consumers that the worst of the global economic crisis is behind us, AAA said.
Alabama travelers can expect to pay about $2.52 per gallon for regular gasoline across the state, compared to the national average price of $2.63 per gallon.
"Although far too many Americans remain unemployed or under other financial stress, AAA's projected increase in Thanksgiving travel from one year ago is another hopeful sign that economic conditions are stabilizing and improving in some areas. We can also be thankful the gradual recovery we have been seeing in the U.S. travel industry since the start of the summer is continuing," said AAA Alabama spokesperson, Clay Ingram.
Eighty-six percent of Thanksgiving vacationers are expected to travel by automobile, while only six percent say they will go by air. In October, the time when most people make decisions in regards to Thanksgiving travel, average gasoline prices were approximately 54 cents cheaper than they were in October 2008.
Despite increases in gasoline prices since October this year, most people will not change their decision to fly verses drive since seat availability becomes more limited and airline ticket prices increase as the holiday approaches.
This year's decrease in the number of air travelers continues a decade-long trend in which air travel as a percentage of total Thanksgiving travel has declined substantially. Since 2000, the number of Americans traveling by air during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend has dropped by 62 percent.