MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - There will be fewer travelers on the roads and at airports this Thanksgiving due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to AAA Travel, effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including health concerns and high unemployment, are impacting Americans' decisions to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday.
AAA anticipates at least a 10% drop in travel - a decrease of at least 5 million Americans compared to 2019. This is the largest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008.
Because of rising COVID-19 positive case numbers, renewed quarantine restrictions, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) travel health notices, AAA expects the actual number of holiday travelers to be even lower.
“While there are some people that are chomping at the bit to go somewhere and see friends and family members that they haven’t seen in a while, there are still a number of people that aren’t quite comfortable getting out and about just yet,” said Clay Ingram with AAA Alabama.
A decline in air travel this year has had a big impact on the Montgomery Regional Airport.
Executive Director Marshall Taggart said back in April, traffic was down by 90%. However, over the past several months traffic has been on the rise. Taggart said a lot of travelers prefer to fly out of a smaller airport during the pandemic.
“Smaller airports are rebounding,” Taggart said. “When you look at the capacity of our airport we feel that we can provide a much more cleaner experience. As opposed to driving to other airports that are more congested, we feel that during this holiday season we can get you where you need to be on time and in addition be safe."
“Our travelers choose to fly here as opposed to driving to another airport like Birmingham or driving to Altana," Taggart went on to say. “Our parking revenues are now the same as they were back in March. So we’ve seen all of the different indicators as it relates to our airport that we’ve rebounded compared to our neighbors.”
The well-being and safety of guests is a top priority at the Montgomery Regional Airport.
“We have 17,000 masks that are on hand to give to passengers,” Taggart said. “In addition, we want to make sure that you have hand sanitizer to use. We’re also cleaning and sanitizing areas throughout our security checkpoints. Also, when you get on the planes, the airlines have done a great job of making sure that you in turn have a clean and safe type experience.”
A prediction on how the Montgomery Regional Airport will do this Thanksgiving in comparison to last year has not yet been calculated.
Those who decide to travel are likely to drive shorter distances and reduce the number of days they are away, making road trips the dominant form of travel this Thanksgiving. Travel by automobile is projected to fall 4.3 percent, to 47.8 million travelers and account for 95% of all holiday travel.
Tip: AAA says to minimize the number of stops along the way, pack meals, extra snacks and drinks in addition to an emergency roadside kit.
Good to know: Those who hit the road for Thanksgiving will find cheaper gas prices, according to AAA. On average, gas prices nationally are nearly 50 cents cheaper than this time last year, with October averages the lowest in more than 15 years.
AAA anticipates Thanksgiving air travel volume will be down by nearly half of prior years – to 2.4 million travelers. This would be the largest one-year decrease on record.
For these travelers, AAA notes holiday airfares are the lowest in three years. If flying, AAA reminds air travelers that in-flight amenities, including food and beverage services, may not be available. Also, as a precaution, wipe down your seat, armrest, belt buckle and tray table using disinfecting wipes.
Travel by other modes, including buses, trains and cruises, is expected to decline 76%, to 353,000 travelers, as cruise ships remain docked and more travelers opt for car trips instead of taking buses or trains.