Holiday Weekend Travel Begins
%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:BX101-112101; AUDIO:202%)
Travelers lined up in airports and crowded trains and highways Wednesday, many saying they felt confident and safe while others admitted being nervous as they began the first major holiday travel period since the Sept. 11 attacks.
``I was afraid to fly before, but now I’m really afraid,″ said Amanda Mrowca, 18, of Chicago, as she and her family waited at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to board a flight to Miami.
But a Los Angeles college student said he had no worries as he prepared to fly for the first time since the attacks.
``It’s no sweat,″ said Sean Wolfson, 25, who was headed to Chicago. ``I think there are precautions they have to take so everyone feels safer. But I don’t feel the doom hanging over my head,″ he said.
Traffic was heavy along Interstate 64 in West Virginia.
``It has been busy all week here since last Friday, but it’s normal holiday traffic,″ said Leon Ross of Hamlin, W.Va., who works as a rest stop attendant near Winfield. ``More people have said they are driving instead of flying or taking buses. That is probably why people started traveling last week.″
The AAA predicted 34.6 million Americans would travel at least 50 miles from home during the Thanksgiving holiday, a 6 percent decline from last year. A record 87 percent were expected to drive, largely due to a decrease in air travel, the automobile association said.
Some travelers shifted from airlines to rails.
``Our train was packed, and every seat was taken,″ said Dan Morrisson, 34, who traveled from New York to Toledo, Ohio, on a train that arrived Wednesday morning. ``We just wanted to avoid the hassle of the airports.″
Greyhound Bus Lines reports a 20 percent surge in advance-purchase tickets for the Thanksgiving period and an increase in trips longer than 1,000 miles.
Chicago Aviation Department officials expected 198,000 people to use O’Hare on Wednesday, and about 1.2 million people were expected to use O’Hare and Midway airports by Sunday night. Both numbers were down about 20 percent from last year’s.
In Miami, the Bayne family waited at the airport to take off for Dallas.
``Right after Sept. 11, we decided to buy the tickets,″ said Joseph Bayne, 51, who was traveling with wife Judith, 47, and son Nick, 14, to visit his sister. ``We normally don’t fly on Thanksgiving. We usually go to Tampa to visit another sister, but it’s our way of helping out the airline. We’re doing the opposite of everyone else.″
Amid the new emphasis on security, United Airlines had several volunteer customer service representatives assisting travelers early Wednesday in Chicago.
``We’re all just kind of pitching in,″ said Bob Barba, a national account manager for United, as he helped people navigate the maze of security checkpoints and ticketing lines.
Chicago Aviation Commissioner Thomas R. Walker urged travelers to arrive at airports at least two hours before their flight time.
On the Net:
Air Transport Association: http://www.air-transport.org