Sunday, November 19, 2000

Travel for Turkey Day has begun

Some beat rush leaving town early

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Despite the increased cost of traveling by road or air this holiday season, a record number of Americans are expected to go elsewhere to get their turkey.

        And in an effort to avoid the crush, they're leaving earlier than ever to get there, evidenced by the full parking lots since Thursday at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

    Here are the estimated airline passenger count and load factor (how many seats will be filled) around the Thanksgiving holiday:
  Passengers Load
Day (millions) factor
Nov. 17 2.1 79.9%
Nov. 18 1.97 78.3%
Nov. 19 1.94 75.3%
Nov. 20 1.68 65.8%
Nov. 21 1.98 75.7%
Nov. 22 1.95 74.8%
Nov. 23 1.25 52.6%
Nov. 24 1.26 54.1%
Nov. 25 1.94 78.3%
Nov. 26 2.24 85.4%
Nov. 27 2.21 83.5%
Nov. 28 2.04 77.2%
Source: Air Transport Association of America
    Here are estimates of how many Americans will be traveling by road Nov. 17-28:
   • United States — 31.6 million.
   • Northeast — 2.7 million.
   • Southeast (includes Kentucky) — 9.3 million.
   • Great Lakes (includes Ohio and Indiana) — 6.4 million.
   • Midwest — 7.1 million.
   • West — 6.1 million.
Source: AAA Cincinnati

    • Leave as early as possible. With 400 short-term parking spaces out of commission at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport because of construction, there will be a crush next to the terminal that will overflow to long-term parking. In addition, construction continues around the airport exit off Interstate 275. Airline officials say to leave at least two hours before departure time.
    • Check the weather at the destination city before leaving. Call the airline (Delta's number is (800) 241-4141 and Comair's is (800) 221-1212) if there are questions about a flight. Also, be aware that several cities, especially Chicago — a United hub — could be affected by threatened labor action.
    • Those making connections in other cities should make copies of that airport's entire schedule in case a flight is missed.
    • If a flight is canceled, try to avoid the customer service line by calling the airline or travel agent directly.


    • Buckle up. Most of the area's law enforcement agencies are cracking down on seat belt use, especially for children. The Ohio State Highway Patrol says 55 percent of all fatalities this year involved someone who did not use an available seat belt.
    • Slow down. You'll get there, even if the pumpkin pie might not be warm. Speed is a factor in at least 65 percent of all fatal accidents, the OSHP says.
    • If traveling long distance, make sure a friend or family member knows the itinerary and arrival time, and then check in with them upon arrival.
    • Check the weather along the route and at the destination.
    • Keep a blanket, flares, candles, a flashlight, and fresh water and some food in the vehicle in case of an outage or cold weather.
    • For regional traffic information, travelers can tune in 24 hours a day to Highway Advisory Radio at AM 530, call 211, or check or


    • Ohio State Highway Patrol: (877) 647-28765 (OH-PATROL).
    • Ohio road conditions: (888) 264-7623 (2-OH-ROAD).
    • Kentucky State Police: (800) 222-5555.
    • Kentucky road conditions: (800) 459-7623.
    • Indiana State Police: 911. (This will access the local post from highway).
    • Indiana road conditions: (800) 261-9623.


    For area traffic information, travelers can tune in 24 hours a day to Highway Advisory Radio at AM-530, or call 211 or check or

        That includes Beth Schultze of East Walnut Hills, who left Saturday to visit her sister in Alexandria, Va. She is renting a Ford Explorer for $250 and paying 25 cents a gallon more for gas than last year.

        Nationally, gas prices are above $1.50 for the sixth straight month. In Greater Cincinnati, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded is $1.55, according to AAA.

        Compared with a two-week advance air fare of nearly $850 apiece for herself, her son and her boyfriend, Ms. Schultze said she's getting a bargain.

        “It's going to take eight to 10 hours, but it's worth it,” said Ms. Schultze, 41, who constructs highway billboards. “The gas prices are higher and that'll hurt, but at least we're having some quality time with the family. And it's cheaper than flying.”

        According to AAA, 38.9 million people are expected to flood the nation's roads, airports and bus and train stations Nov. 17-28, with 31.6 million traveling by road — a 4 percent increase over last year.

        The Air Transport Association of America predicts the airline industry will handle 20 million passengers over what has become an extended holiday period.

        That would be a record despite five rate increases and a 13 percent increase overall in the cost of air travel compared to last Thanksgiving.

        “Higher transportation costs are not going to discourage (travelers),” said AAA Cincinnati spokeswoman Jennifer Ledonne.

        Air travelers could face delays or cancellations caused by labor action. In the midst of a contract dispute with mechanics, United Airlines Thursday canceled 54 flights because of maintenance problems - twice the average.

        Nationwide, flight attendants for United and American plan pickets over the holiday week.

        Also Thursday, Delta Air Lines said some pilots have started to decline overtime assignments as contract negotiations continue - a strategy that crippled United during this summer's dispute.

        But company spokeswoman Cindi Kurczewski said Friday that the company “has made operational adjustments and doesn't anticipate any schedule interruptions.”

        On the cost front, USA Today last week reported that some airlines were tacking on fuel surcharges of $40 or more for holiday travel, especially in cities with little competition.

        Ms. Kurczewski said the airline is not adding such surcharges, although the airline did add a $25 fuel surcharge in July, following an industrywide trend.

        Airport officials said the pace began picking up late last week and anticipate one of their busiest stretches ever.

        The ATA predicted the busiest day before Thanksgiving would be last Friday, when 2.1 million travelers were expected to take to the skies.

        “It used to be Wednesday and Sunday were our busy days, and now the busy time extends throughout the week,” Ms. Kurczewski said.

        That trend of leaving early also applies to road travel, according to Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Michael Black of the Hamilton post.

        “If someone can afford to take a few extra days off, we recommend it,” Lt. Black said. “We're still expecting the huge rush day on Wednesday, but if we can get people out (the previous) Saturday or Sunday, it helps everyone.”

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