The United States is bracing for holiday travel disruption as record numbers of people plan to take to the roads and skies as a winter storm looms in parts of the country.
Around 39 million passengers are expected to fly to their destinations in the next two weeks, with airports preparing to host up to 2.5 million passengers each day.
TSA expects passenger numbers to increase 6% compared to last year, with the busiest days expected to be Dec. 21, Dec. 29, and Jan. 1.
U.S. airlines are bracing for record traffic this holiday season, adding staff to avoid a repeat of last year’s Christmas disaster.
Ahead of the rush, extensive line preparations have already begun at Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Linthicum, Maryland, Newark, New Jersey, and Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
Americans are being warned to expect travel disruptions over the holidays as record numbers of travelers plan to take off on trips over the Christmas period, as winter weather sweeps in at the same time.
About 39 million passengers are expected to fly to their destinations on jets over the next two weeks, and airports are preparing to welcome 2.5 million passengers each day, the TSA said.
Maryland lines had already begun snaking through the baggage hall Friday at Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Linthicum.
The pressure on the system is so great that traditional methods, such as pre-check services that once saved travelers from airport headaches, are now becoming useless.
According to AAA, which estimates the busiest festive travel period ever, 104 million people are expected to use highways in the coming days, with warnings of road congestion in other regions.
And with just days left, Christmas is already in jeopardy in New England after a massive storm hit the northern part of the region, causing power outages and flooding.
The storm killed at least seven people in East Coast states, with deaths also reported in Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and Maine.
A 61-year-old woman was found dead Wednesday morning inside an overturned truck that was swept away Monday night while attempting to cross the flooded Swift River in Mexico, Maine. A 20-year-old woman remains missing, authorities said.
On the same day, nine people, including a two-year-old child, were rescued along the swollen Crooked River in the Naples and Casco regions.
Democratic Maine Gov. Janet Mills said that while water levels are expected to recede in the coming days, they remain dangerously high and pose a serious risk to many parts of the state.
The Kennebec, Sandy, Swift, Carrabassett and Androscoggin rivers that flow through Augusta are all higher than usual, causing damage and road closures, according to the Maine Department of Transportation.
The storm’s aftermath left hundreds of thousands of people in the dark, ski areas closed, roads washed out, bridges closed and families forced to throw away rotten holiday food.
It’s unclear when power will be restored to everyone, but Maine officials and power companies have warned that some places may have to wait until the holidays.
Travel was already at risk in Maine after Monday’s severe storms caused rivers to flood and hundreds of thousands of homes to be without power. Photo: A car floats in a flooded parking lot at the Hathaway Creative Center on the Kennebec River in Waterville, Maine.
At least seven people have died as a result of heavy rains across the East Coast, with deaths reported in Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and Maine. Photo: Hallowell, Maine resident. Walk through the floodwaters and collect items.
Level 2 flash flood warnings have been issued for parts of the country, which could further disrupt travel plans. Photo: Sandbags on the street in Montpelier, Vermont. Tuesday, December 19, 2023, a day after the threat of flooding once again hit the city.
A winter storm warning was issued for parts of Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico over the weekend, with heavy snow expected.
Up to 2 feet of snow is expected in high areas of Flagstaff, Arizona, but the National Weather Service is urging people to limit travel in all affected areas.
Meanwhile, a Level 2 flash flood threat was issued for Christmas Eve from Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas to the central Gulf Coast.
Residents in the South, including Georgia, and the Midwest, as far as Minneapolis, are being warned to be on alert as thunderstorms are expected into next week.
On the West Coast, there is a threat of landslides and flooding in California, and Santa Ana winds could bring heavy rain and snow and disrupt travel.
For those looking to avoid disruptions, travel experts recommend leaving as early as possible, as disruptions are often greatest during peak hours.
The best day to fly, also known as Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, is “the least crowded and cheapest day to fly,” said Haley Berg, chief economist at Hopper.
Meanwhile, Dec. 21 and 22 will be the busiest days, with “more than 3.7 million seats scheduled to depart from U.S. airports,” she said.
U.S. airlines are bracing for record traffic this holiday season, adding staff to avoid a repeat of last year’s Christmas disaster.Photo: Passengers at Newark, New Jersey airport try to beat the holiday rush
AAA expects about 104 million people to use the roads during the holiday period, which could cause congestion.Photo: Line outside Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport
He added: “Airports will be busy during the week after Christmas as some travelers return home from Christmas trips and others depart for New Year’s travel.”
Expedia US expert added We recommend arriving as early as possible with at least 2-2.5 hours of boarding time.
For international flights, we recommend adding an additional hour to this.
Next, travel pros advise signing up for TSA PreCheck or CLEAR to avoid lines at busy airports.
For new applicants, the TSA PreCheck fee costs $78 and reservations can be made online.
However, the number of users has soared to more than 18 million, which will decline by about 30% from 2022, according to the study. CNNEven this does not necessarily guarantee a smooth transition.
Sarah Lassner, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet, also revealed that some airlines offer expedited security access for an additional fee.
She explains: “United Airlines Premier Access offers dedicated security lanes, a dedicated airport check-in line, and priority boarding starting at $15 per ticket.
Fly-by lanes on Southwest Airlines give you access to ticket counters and security checkpoints at select airports. Earn this by purchasing Business Select fares or holding A-List or A-List Preferred Southwest Elite status.
Finally, if possible, try to pack only carry-on luggage.
An Expedia spokesperson told DailyMail.com: “I always advise my friends and family to pack light and bring a carry-on.”
“This way, your luggage is less likely to be lost in the event of a delay or cancellation.