Nov 23, 2022 - Economy

Thanksgiving travel surges, despite high costs and fear of delays

Illustration of a sad turkey wearing a neck pillow

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

High costs and ubiquitous logistical headaches aren't slowing down Americans' holiday travel.

Driving the news: Airports and airlines are bracing for crowds and looking to stave off delays as millions of Americans skip town.

  • "We have only seen demand grow since the end of August," Hayley Berg, an economist at Hopper Inc., told Axios.

By the numbers: In total, approximately 54.6 million people are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home this Thanksgiving, which is about 98% of pre-pandemic levels, per AAA.

  • More than 2 million people per day have passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints since last Thursday. TSA said it could screen more than 2.5 million passengers on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Context: Air travel has been marred by widespread delays and cancellations, largely driven by staffing shortages.

The big picture: The cost of travel is also up this holiday season — due to soaring demand, less flight capacity and rising jet fuel prices.

  • Last-minute air prices are about 40% higher than last-minute prices in 2019 and about 30% higher than last year, per Hopper.
  • Gas prices have fallen from a peak this summer, but even the national average of about $3.75 per gallon can still make a long road trip an expensive proposition.

What to watch: Remote work may be giving Americans some leeway to extend their Thanksgiving holiday, Berg said.

Go deeper... Americans are flocking to restaurants this Thanksgiving

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