Travel numbers climb as Americans hit the road for holiday

It's going to be crowded at airports and on the road this Memorial Day weekend. Americans were hitting the road in near-record numbers at the start of the holiday weekend.

Posted: May 28, 2021 12:43 PM
Updated: May 28, 2021 12:44 PM

(AP) - Americans hit the road in near-record numbers at the start of the Memorial Day weekend, as their eagerness to break free from coronavirus confinement overcame higher prices for flights, gasoline and hotels.

More than 1.8 million people went through U.S. airports on Thursday, and the number was widely expected to cross the 2 million threshold over the long holiday weekend — that would be the highest mark since early March 2020.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warned travelers to expect long lines at airports, and on Friday he pleaded with Americans to show some patience.

The rise in travel appears to be fueled by an increase in people vaccinated against COVID-19 and also by an improving economy. The U.S. Commerce Department said consumer spending increased in April, although not as much as in March, providing more evidence that consumers are driving a recovery from last year's pandemic recession.

The arrival of Memorial Day coincides with some states eliminating their remaining pandemic restrictions amid improving case, hospitalization and death numbers. The mask mandate in Massachusetts goes away Saturday, and Virginia is easing all distancing and capacity restrictions Friday.

President Joe Biden is traveling to Virginia to celebrate the unofficial start of summer and its accomplishments in battling the virus at a time when the state of more than 8 million people is averaging only 360 cases a day.

At Miami International Airport, officials are anticipating about 115,000 passengers per day over the six-day period that ends June 1. Spokesman Greg Chin said the airport numbers are equaling pre-pandemic levels. It’s a similar story in Orlando, where airport traffic is reaching 90% of pre-pandemic levels and people are flocking to theme parks that have recently loosened restrictions.

AAA expects a 60% jump in travel over the same holiday weekend last year, with 37 million Americans traveling at least 50 miles from home, most of them in cars. The auto club and insurer made that forecast even with gasoline prices at their highest levels in seven years — the national average is above $3 a gallon for regular.

Prices for rental cars are up sharply too — if you can find one — after rental companies culled their fleets to survive last year's deep slump in travel.

“My mother-in-law called me on a vacation and said, ‘Hey, can you get me a rental car?’ I said, ‘No,’ “ said Jordan Staab, president of SmarterTravel Media. “Demand is up 500% since January and it’s tough to get a rental car right now, so plan ahead as much as you possibly can.”

Hotels and other lodging in beach and mountain areas are expecting bigger crowds than those in urban areas. Lou Carrier, the president of Distinctive Hospitality Group, said the company's two hotels in tourist towns in Connecticut have seen a jump in bookings since the state loosened its face-mask requirements two weeks ago, but occupancy is still only around 20% at its three hotels in Boston.

Hotel room rates nationally jumped 9% in April after an 8% rise in March, and airfares soared 10% in April, according to the latest available figures from the Commerce Department.

That's not stopping people from getting on planes. The Transportation Security Administration has screened nearly 1.6 million people a day this month, up from 224,000 a day in May 2020.

Most of those people are traveling for vacations or visiting family and friends in the United States. Airline executives say domestic leisure travel is back to pre-pandemic levels — Delta Air Lines President Glen Hauenstein said this week that bookings are now running ahead of the 2019 pace.

Business travelers and international visitors are still mostly absent, however, and airlines are eager to see that lucrative business return. One proposal for making international travel easier is a so-called vaccine passport — an app that would indicate if a person has been vaccinated or tested against COVID-19.

Mayorkas, the Homeland Security secretary, told ABC Friday that the government is taking “a very close look” at the idea. The airline industry, the European Union and others are scrambling to develop vaccine passports to boost international travel and revive tourism-based economies.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 501097

Reported Deaths: 9990
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34338538
DeSoto32117403
Hinds31939628
Jackson24494382
Rankin21995390
Lee15543235
Madison14581280
Jones13851242
Forrest13453251
Lauderdale11991317
Lowndes11050188
Lamar10521135
Pearl River9533237
Lafayette8550140
Hancock7732127
Washington7438158
Oktibbeha7146131
Monroe6777177
Warren6694176
Pontotoc6664102
Neshoba6637206
Panola6531131
Marshall6467134
Bolivar6317148
Union602894
Pike5820152
Alcorn5669101
Lincoln5436135
George496879
Scott472898
Tippah469281
Prentiss467281
Leflore4658144
Itawamba4636105
Tate4588111
Adams4587119
Copiah448592
Simpson4446116
Yazoo444187
Wayne439772
Covington428894
Sunflower4239105
Marion4226108
Coahoma4160105
Leake408288
Newton381779
Grenada3707108
Stone360364
Tishomingo359792
Attala331589
Jasper329965
Winston314291
Clay308076
Chickasaw300367
Clarke292494
Calhoun279446
Holmes267987
Smith264050
Yalobusha234047
Tallahatchie228051
Greene219348
Walthall218763
Lawrence212940
Perry205556
Amite205156
Webster202946
Noxubee186740
Montgomery179656
Jefferson Davis171743
Carroll169138
Tunica159839
Benton148838
Kemper141941
Choctaw133426
Claiborne132737
Humphreys129538
Franklin120228
Quitman106428
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson94534
Sharkey64120
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 819597

Reported Deaths: 15406
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1147901924
Mobile725791338
Madison52306697
Shelby37597350
Baldwin37245552
Tuscaloosa35101612
Montgomery34106740
Lee23526246
Calhoun22225488
Morgan20941378
Etowah19825500
Marshall18361304
Houston17384412
St. Clair16054339
Cullman15443293
Limestone15343199
Elmore15241286
Lauderdale14302295
Talladega13836283
DeKalb12649261
Walker11202370
Blount10192176
Autauga10043148
Jackson9871184
Coffee9210191
Dale8897185
Colbert8860201
Tallapoosa7084198
Escambia6772134
Covington6712183
Chilton6641162
Russell636659
Franklin5959105
Chambers5607142
Marion5005127
Dallas4973200
Pike4795106
Clarke475584
Geneva4571127
Winston4516103
Lawrence4321117
Bibb425186
Barbour357776
Marengo338090
Monroe331464
Randolph329764
Butler326396
Pickens316284
Henry312666
Hale311388
Cherokee302860
Fayette292880
Washington251551
Cleburne247760
Crenshaw245275
Clay243368
Macon234663
Lamar224147
Conecuh186153
Coosa180240
Lowndes175164
Wilcox168839
Bullock151644
Perry138840
Sumter133038
Greene126744
Choctaw88527
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Clear cool and dry to begin your weekend, but both afternoons should be a little bit above what we expect for this time of year temperature wise. Rain chances begin to return late Sunday night, with at least two chances for storms over the next week, summer could be strong.
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