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Extra Time Makes Travel Easier

November 23, 2000

At least the frazzled holiday feeling didn’t hit them as they headed out the door.

It seemed few who set out on their holiday journeys Wednesday faced major delays along the way. Many travelers aware of potential tie-ups at airports built in extra time to get to their Thanksgiving destinations.

``We left four hours ahead of time, figuring it would be crazy,″ said Donna Coleman of Methuen, Mass., who passed the time playing cards with 12-year-old son Joel at Boston’s Logan International Airport. ``We zipped right into one of the satellite parking lots.″

Fortunately, the wait didn’t stretch. Her Delta Air Lines flight was on time.

Shannon Pond, 31, of Los Angeles and her 6-year-old daughter Amber whiled away at the Hollywood Burbank Glendale Airport. They had been dropped off by a friend 90 minutes early for a flight to Phoenix and didn’t face the traditional airport-bound gridlock.

``It was a little more crowded last year,″ Pond said. ``I’m really surprised there aren’t more people here.″

Except for weather-related troubles around New York City, there were few significant delays at major airports across the country Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Even so, tracks and highways nationwide showed the spillover of travelers who had forgone skyways, fearing the worst.

Amtrak added 65,000 additional seats to keep up with the 580,000 passengers expected to travel by train this week, a 10 percent increase over last year. Greyhound Lines Inc., whose buses had carried about 900,000 passengers for Thanksgiving 1999, expected to reach a million this week.

Andrea and Alfred Armstrong were taking Amtrak from Philadelphia to Stafford, Va., struggling with their 7-year-old daughter, 6-month-old son, four suitcases and a stroller.

``It is going to be very difficult for us, but it’s worse for my husband because he has to carry everything,″ said Andrea Armstrong, who is three months pregnant. ``I will have to take the kids and get on the train as fast as possible to find us seats.″

Travel by car was also on the rise with the American Automobile Association projecting a 5 percent jump this weekend to an estimated 31.6 million.

``Most years the numbers are steady, but a 4 or 5 percent jump is substantial,″ AAA spokesman Michael Bie said.

Adam Robbins, 26, of San Diego, who stopped for fuel in Burbank, Calif., on his way to Fresno, said he preferred driving. His gas-guzzling 1996 Ford Explorer _ loaded with pumpkin pies and yams _ is cheaper than flying, he said.

John Bicking of Aurora, Ill., was driving his minivan to Pittsburgh to visit family.

``I will never ever get on a plane again for Thanksgiving,″ said Bicking, who was with his wife and three children. ``This is a new holiday tradition. Load up with games and coloring books and drive to grandma’s.″

Some plane itineraries weren’t as zippy as others.

At Midway Airport in Chicago, Matt and Sarah Niess said a trip to visit family in Boston had become a fiasco. Their flight from San Francisco was an hour late, which made them miss their connection at Midway to Boston. A bus would shuttle them an hour away to a connecting flight from O’Hare International Airport, but first they had to find their luggage.

``I hate it,″ said Sarah Niess at an empty luggage carousel. Her husband agreed: ``It’s a total nightmare.″

In all, a record 38.9 million Americans _ 4 percent more than last year _ had planned to travel at least 100 miles from home for Thanksgiving, according to AAA.

Of course, the millions of travelers leaving home eventually have to return _ and most will do that Sunday. The Air Transport Association, which represents major airlines, estimates that will be the busiest day in U.S. airline history, with 2.24 million passengers.

Upon hearing that, Fran O’Tool, a United Airlines passenger at O’Hare, laughed heartily and rolled her eyes.

``Ohhhhh boy,″ she said. ``I look forward to it.″

___

On the Net:

AAA: http://www.aaa.com

FAA Passenger Info: http://www.faa.gov/passenger.htm

Amtrak: http://www.amtrak.com

Intellicast: http://www.intellicast.com

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