Travelers across the region and the U.S. will hit the road or board planes this week for the Thanksgiving holiday, one of the busiest travel seasons of the year.
The Wilmington International Airport (ILM) anticipates an increase in travelers this season, given the addition of United Airlines to the commercial carrier lineup in 2018, and several new flights, said Gary Broughton, deputy director of ILM.
For ILM, the week of Thanksgiving is the busiest travel season of the year, with the heaviest traffic expected between Wednesday and Sunday, he said.
Right now, the airport estimates about a 20 percent increase in travel compared to Thanksgiving week last year. The airport calculates totals between Monday through Sunday, Broughton said.
Advance bookings this year are up to more than 10,100 passengers during that timeframe at ILM, according to numbers reported by Broughton on Monday morning.
Although not official numbers, “it’s something we track locally with the help of our local airlines,” Broughton added.
Last year, airlines' advanced booking was more than 8,000 passengers the week of Thanksgiving, with actual numbers tallied following the 2017 holiday at more than 8,200, Broughton said.
“This is what you hope for,” Broughton said. “You hope for full flights and that everything will be on time.”
TSA and airlines at ILM will be basing their staffing based on their anticipated bookings, he said. And with the increase in passengers to and from the airport, Broughton advised travelers that there will be lines at checkpoints. Parking may also be more difficult to find.
"My word of caution is for passengers to give themselves enough time to get here and get through security," Broughton said, adding that flights typically board 30 minutes before departure. Another word of advice; don't bring wrapped packages, which will not pass through security, he said.
On area roadways, AAA Carolinas predicts that close to 1.5 million North Carolinians will travel 50 miles or more during the Thanksgiving holiday, defined as Wednesday through Sunday. That's the most since 2005, according to a recent AAA report.
A news released by AAA Monday reported a drop in gas prices since last week. North Carolina motorists are paying an average of $2.52 a gallon, which is 6 cents less than a week ago, officials said in the report.
That's also 10 cents cheaper than the national average Monday.
In Wilmington, the average Monday was $2.58, 3 cents cheaper than last week's average.
“The nearly 2 million Carolinians hitting the road for Thanksgiving will find pump prices similar to last year,” Tiffany Wright, spokeswoman for AAA Carolinas, said in the release. “When it comes time to fill up during the trip, motorists should keep in mind that gas stations along highly traveled routes may find prices more expensive than in-town."
A GasBuddy report, however, projected that gas prices nationally will be the highest in four years on Thanksgiving. The company also is predicting a decrease in national travel this year in part because of that.
Motorists will “be paying nearly $80 million more over the travel period as a country” than last year, Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said in a Monday news release.
Its annual Holiday Travel Survey also reported that 32 percent of participants said higher gas prices would impact their travel plans, stated the release. The survey also predicted that there would be a 15 percent decrease in travelers on the road in 2018 compared to last year.