The nation is bracing for Memorial Day chaos as more than 42million Americans are set to hit the roads, tracks and skies for the long weekend.
Seventy-six flights within, into or out of the US had already been cancelled by midday, and a further 1,500 hit by delays.
The rise in airfare costs hasn’t put off the 3.4 million expected to fly, an increase of 11 percent on last year and even a 5.4 percent increase on 2019 numbers before the pandemic, the AAA said.
Airports are expected to have their busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2005. The roads were so far yet to buckle under the strain Friday morning – but the vacation stampede will begin in earnest after the working day finishes.
Although gas prices remain high they are well below last year’s level, with an average national price of $3.53 per gallon compared with $4.60 in May 2022, encouraging 37.1 million to travel by car.
Quick look at the lines here at @MCO. It¿s really important that you arrive for your flight at least 3 hours ahead of time. @AAA_Travel is expecting this to be the busiest Memorial Day weekend for airports since 2005! More this morning on @MyNews13 pic.twitter.com/2EOYtu4lCI
— Celeste Springer (@CelesteSpringer) May 26, 2023
ORLANDO, THURSDAY: Large crowds were pictured making their way through Orlando Airport with bosses warning that capacity is being ‘pushed to the limit’
The heaviest congestion on the roads is expected to begin this afternoon at 3pm and continue until 6pm, according to the AAA.
Large crowds were pictured making their way through Orlando Airport on Friday morning.
Marquez Griffin, vice president of Airport Operations, told My News 13 the surging crowds were ‘pushing our capacity again to the limit’.
Airports have been forced to prepare for the leap in demand, with Delta reporting last month that its international flights were already 75 percent booked for the summer.
Delta anticipates it will carry 2.8million customers during Memorial Day weekend alone, a more than 17 percent jump from 2022, and expects ‘loads to be high’ throughout the holiday travel period.
The industry expects that there is still pent-up demand for travel after the years of disruption during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ed Bastian, Delta chief executive, told CBS that ‘the planes are full, people are happy to be getting back to reclaim their life and their joy, and I don’t see that changing.
‘Travel is something people are prioritizing.’
CHICAGO FRIDAY: Passengers wait in Midway International Airport as the rush gets underway
LOS ANGELES THURSDAY: Airports have been forced to prepare for the leap in demand
CHICAGO FRIDAY: The rise in airfare costs hasn’t put off the 3.4 million expected to fly over the weekend
NEW JERSEY FRIDAY: Gas prices are down encouraging 37.1 million to travel by car
American Airlines also expects to transport 2.9 million passengers, and will operate 26,637 flights over the weekend.
Chicago alone is expected to have more than 1.56 million travelers between Thursday and Tuesday – a 7.7 percent increase over last year.
Two million from Illinois will travel more than 50 miles from home, Fox32 reported.
This year, 2.7 million more people are expected to travel compared with last year, a 7 percent increase on 2022.
1.85 million people are expected to take a bus or train, a 20.6 percent increase compared to last year.
The travel association projects that it will be the third-busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000.