Expect full planes for Thanksgiving - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Trains, planes, road packed for Thanksgiving travel

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Passengers packed Charlotte Douglas International well into Wednesday night heading home to loved ones for the Thanksgiving holiday.

It's an encouraging sign that the U.S. economy is slowly on the mend.

"We are seeing peak travel on Wednesday the day before Thanksgiving," said US Airways spokesperson Davien Anderson.

At Charlotte Douglas International, 150 thousand passengers are expected to go through local T-S-A screening during the Thanksgiving holiday.

A statement released by the airport manager's office says that Thursday will be a slow day, but crowds after that should average 25 thousand passengers a day by the end of the holiday weekend.

Krista Pederson came to Charlotte from Denver, CO by way of Atlanta, GA. She said it wasn't too bad.

"We just had to sit on the tarmac for about an hour when we landed from Atlanta," she said. "It wasn't that bad though. You just had to wait, could have been worse."

Thanksgiving is such a family-oriented holiday; people often find a way to get to Grandma's house even if they're still pinching pennies.

AAA predicts more than 23 million passengers are expected to fly this holiday season, an increase of about 150,000 passengers over last year.

On top of that, the number of Americans hitting the road this Thanksgiving is expected to increase slightly from a year ago. But analysts expect people will take shorter trips to save on gas and other costs as household budgets remain tight.     

AAA says Tuesday in its annual Thanksgiving forecast that a stronger economy is needed to spur a bigger jump in holiday travel growth. AAA predicts 43.6 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home over Thanksgiving, up just 0.7 percent from last year.

Erika Salter was just one of the millions. She was headed to home to Greensboro.

"Hopefully the traffic won't be too bad," she said.

A dramatic drop in gas prices should help holiday travel. The national average has declined 35 cents per gallon in the last month. AAA expects further declines through the holiday, although the price of gas on Thanksgiving Day should be close to last year's record of $3.32 per gallon.

Salter is definitely relieved to see the drop in the price of petro.

"I've seen worse," she said. "So, I'm ok with it right now. But I'm going to fill up a little bit down the road because it is cheaper going closer to home."

Drivers will notice an increase in the number of officers on the road, due to the "Click it or ticket" holiday campaign. Read more about the campaign here.

And airlines are gearing up for the extra flow of passengers through airport corridors.

"Our more than seven thousand employees here in Charlotte are working very hard to ensure that our customers arrive to their destination safely, on time and of course with their bags," said Anderson.

A piece of good news that's likely to encourage travel is the recent drop in gasoline prices after sky high rates this summer.

"To accommodate for the heavier travel dates we've added flights on Wednesday," said Anderson. 

"We will run a reduced schedule on Thursday since most of our customers will have already arrived to their destination for Thanksgiving."

But expect travel to pick up again the Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving.

Amtrak reports that most of its trains are sold out Tuesday, Wednesday and next Sunday as it expects near record ridership this week.

More than 2 million passengers are predicted to travel each day.

While super storm Sandy affected travel earlier this month, Charlotte Douglas International Airport says operations to the northeast are back to normal.

"Most of our customers are still booking their travels to the northeast area and really haven't seen a huge impact," said Anderson. 

"I think our customers are still going ahead with their holiday plans as usual."

Anyone traveling to NY/NJ this holiday should keep in mind that rental cars have been hard to find in the aftermath of super storm Sandy.

However, Triple A says the shortage should begin to ease and there should be no problems finding rental vehicles in time for Thanksgiving.

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