AAA said holiday travel this year will set a new record -- with nearly 7 million Americans flying somewhere in the coming days. File Photo by Alexis C. Glenn/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 17 (UPI) -- A record number of of Americans will travel this holiday season on roads, runways or rails -- with Thursday set to be the busiest travel day of the year.
AAA said 112.5 million travelers will travel somewhere during the holidays --a 4.4 percent increase over last year and the most since AAA started tracking data in 2001. The majority, 102 million, will drive to their destination. INRIX, a global analytics company that tracks mobility, predicts congestion in U.S. cities could make road trips take four times longer than normal.
"Strong economic growth fueled by robust consumer spending continues to drive strong demand for seasonal travel," AAA spokesperson Julie Hall said. "With a record-breaking one-third of the country choosing to travel this holiday, roadways and airports are sure to be busy."
The worst days to travel depends on the city. The greatest delays are expected in Atlanta on Saturday, New York City Thursday and Houston Wednesday.
Experts say this year, air travel is the most popular it's been since before the Great Recession.
"The 6.7 million people who will travel by air this year is the highest level since in 15 years and 4.2 percent more than last year," Hall said.
The Transportation Security Administration will screen 6 percent more passengers this season compared to last. At the peak of holiday travel, on Dec. 26, the TSA expects to screen 2.7 million people at airports.
With the added stress, airports have started adding perks to help travelers relax or find something to do while they're en route.
Denver International Airport is offering free skate rentals; Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport added some Christmas decorations to its famous Snoopy statue on the mall; Nashville International invites passengers to sing Christmas karaoke; and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will have a daily holiday parade.
Lower-than-expected oil prices could mean soaring profits for airlines this year. WTI crude oil prices have fallen from a peak of $76.40 on Oct. 3 to $50 a barrel in trading Monday. Jet fuel prices have decreased as a result, going from $2.34 a gallon in October to $1.75 this month.
Delta Air Lines said it expects 7.5 percent growth in travel over last year, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.