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Cheap gas, air fare sales might boost holiday travel numbers

POSTED: December 3, 2008 5:00 a.m.

After fuel prices took a nose dive this month, many are predicting Thanksgiving travel will not drop as much as initially expected.

AAA Auto Club South Spokesman Gregg Laskoski said AAA projected Thanksgiving travel to be down about 1.4 percent compared to travel in 2007.

"That number is based on a survey that was done over a month ago. It’s very possible that some of the folks that were disinclined to travel have changed their mind, especially when they see how much the price of gasoline has come down just in that amount of time," Laskoski said.

It’s hard to say for sure what people will be doing this week. Some may be forced to stay home because of the economy, but Laskoski thinks some may be inclined to hop in the car with gas prices as low as $1.65 a gallon in some areas.

Another reason people may be driving this Thanksgiving is that airlines have added fees and reduced the number of flights they are offering by about 2 percent.

"That type of information is going to persuade a lot of people to not want to travel by plane," Laskoski said.

Andy McDill, a spokesman for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, said travel projections for Thanksgiving have changed as recently as Monday. At a press conference Saturday, McDill said the airport expected to see about 5 percent less traffic. But now, more people are booking flights.

"We are now actually seeing traffic the same, or as we like to call it flat, over last year. So it looks like holiday bookings are actually picking up," McDill said.

McDill said there are likely a number of reasons, such as airlines offering sale fares for the holidays.

McDill said those planning to travel by plane should be on the lookout for some changes that may make getting through the airport easier.

"We actually opened up 10 new security lanes," McDill said. "The security lanes are now designated as self-select lanes so our customers can pick the lane that’s right for them."

McDill said the lanes are marked like a ski resort. A lane marked with a black diamond is meant for expert or experienced travelers who are able to get through security quickly. A blue square is for casual fliers who have more time before their flight leaves, and green circle lanes are for families or fliers who need special assistance.

Those traveling on Georgia’s roads are urged to be cautious, as the Georgia State Patrol is expecting the Thanksgiving weekend to be the heaviest holiday travel period so far this year.

Officials estimate there could be as many as 3,325 crashes resulting in 950 injuries and 19 fatalities on Georgia roads.

State troopers will be patrolling interstates and secondary roads heavily throughout the week to make traveling as safe as possible, according to a release.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will not be doing roadwork during the holiday weekend, also in an effort to make driving safer and easier for motorists.

However, traffic is expected to be heavy near major retail centers and malls this weekend — the traditional start to the holiday shopping season — as consumers search for after-Thanksgiving bargains.


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