- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The impact of America’s economic woes seems to be working its way into Thanksgiving travel plans.

Last month, Rasmussen surveyed 1,000 adults to gauge their travel plans for the holidays, and how a looming recession factors in. Fifty-four percent of those polled said they planned to just stay home, while 31 percent planned to travel by car. Amazingly, only 7 percent plan to travel within the United States by plane, 4 percent would go outside the country, and 4 percent were unsure. But some methods of travel are still cost effective, so Americans may want to reconsider that trip to grandmother’s house this Thanksgiving.

According to Fox News, a “bargain” airline ticket this year will cost around $200 per person instead of $400. These bargains will most likely be found with low-cost carriers such as Southwest, JetBlue and AirTran.

The Associated Press reported that the airline industry is having its worst year since 2005. Airlines have started cutting prices after raising them earlier this year to make up for fuel costs. The airlines hope the price discounts will attract disheartened travelers and those hit by the economic slow down. A 10 percent year-over-year decrease in the number of passengers traveling on U.S. airlines has been noted by the American Transport Association of America (ATA). ATA’s president and CEO, James May, said this will be “the first such decline in seven years.”

In spite of the decrease of airline travelers, the ATA is still asking the federal Transportation Security Administration to keep flyers moving at security checkpoints and encouraging the government to open up airspace. For the Thanksgiving holiday, the busiest travel days will be Nov. 26, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. “Thanksgiving remains the busiest travel time of the year for airlines. And make no mistake - the airports will be busy and many flights will be 100 percent full,” said Mr. May.

As for automotive travel, AAA will release its annual Thanksgiving forecast today. AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend tells us, “These are the cheapest gas prices we have seen in three years, so we expect people to travel by vehicle.” Mr. Townsend also says that “the big picture this year is the state of the economy. … Consumers will have to choose between their purse strings and their heart strings.” Gas has dropped below $2 a gallon for the national average, according to AAA. Drivers who use 50 gallons of unleaded gas this month will save approximately $40 to $50 as compared to the same time last year. Lower gas prices will likely encourage more drivers to hit the road to see family and friends.

Mr. Townsend is optimistic in that regard, pointing out that the importance of family bonds during the holidays seems to outweigh economic limitations. “Will mom’s apple pie and love of family, will that be enough of an incentive [for travelers]. All in all, it probably will.”


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