Good Luck: Travel Should Be a Mess This Weekend

If 3 million people pass through security checkpoints Friday, it’d mark the busiest travel day ever recorded.

Photo of JFK Terminal 5
Photo by Beyond My Ken via CC BY-SA 4.0

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Even the threat of killer turbulence isn’t enough to halt our holiday travel plans.

The Transportation Security Administration projects as many as 3 million travelers will pass through airport checkpoints on Friday alone, setting the stage for one of the busiest Memorial Day weekends for travel ever. Unfortunately for Boeing-wary wanderers, highway traffic won’t be much better, let alone safer.

Thunder Road

In fact, highway traffic may be pretty terrible. As many as 43 million people are expected to travel up to 50 miles on the road between Thursday and Monday, according to AAA estimates reported by the Associated Press. That’s enough to count as the most Memorial Day traffic in nearly two decades. And the weekend culminates what’s been a busy travel season all year. Travel already spiked last weekend, with both Friday and Sunday marking the two busiest flying days of the year so far, according to the TSA. If 3 million people pass through security checkpoints Friday, it’d mark the busiest travel day ever recorded — besting last year’s Sunday-after-Thanksgiving figure of 2.9 million fliers.

It’s all kicking off what may be the busiest travel summer in memory:

  • Major US airlines expect to serve 271 million passengers between June 1 and August 31, according to trade group Airlines for America. That’s up from last year’s record-breaking 255 million passengers.
  • Meanwhile, inflation isn’t biting the travel industry — at least quite so hard. Airfare is down 6% compared to a year ago, according to recently released data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, while hotel room fares are down around 0.4%.

“We haven’t seen any pullback in travel since the pandemic. Year after year, we have seen these numbers continue to grow,” AAA spokesperson Aixa Diaz told the AP. “We don’t know when it’s going to stop. There’s no sign of it yet.”

I Hate NY: One place that isn’t exactly feeling the tourist love? New York. The city’s status as a tourist attraction still hasn’t quite recovered from the Covid pandemic, according to a report out Thursday from the New York State Comptroller’s office. Last year, 62.2 million travelers took a trip to the Big Apple, down from 66.6 million in 2019. Visitor spending did reach $48 million last year, which marks a 1.3% increase from pre-pandemic levels. Hey, maybe inflation isn’t so bad after all?