AAA is forecasting a record number of travelers over the current holiday period, both nationally and in Missouri. The organization forecasts a record-breaking 112.5 million travelers, more than one-third of Americans, will take to the nation’s runways, roads and rails for the year-end holidays. The figure represents a 4.4 percent increase over last year and the most since AAA has been tracking holiday travel.
Mike Right with AAA Missouri says there’ll be a new level set for Missourians who travel 50 miles or more over the 11 days period. “We’re going to see 2.28 million Missourians will be on the road, airways, and railways over the holiday period,” said Right.
Missouri also has the lowest average price of gas in the country as of Monday at $1.89.4 a gallon. Right says the price at the pump has been steadily moving down. “We’re in great shape right now for gasoline prices,” Right said. “A couple of weeks ago we finally saw the prices come down below what we were paying last year.” The national average is currently $2.32.2 according to AAA figures. Hawaii has the most expansive average price at the pump – $3.43.9.
The likelihood that Missouri will continue to have among the lowest prices at the pump was strengthened last month when voters resoundingly rejected a ballot measure to increase the state’s motor fuel tax by 10 cents over four years.
Right says AAA has looked at whether fuel prices spike because of demand over the holiday period and determined that no such correlation exists. “We see prices going up as often as they go down,” said Right. “I don’t know that holiday travel, generally speaking, is a major force in terms of what you’re going to be paying for gasoline.” He said gas prices might spike in locations where it’s a restricted commodity, such as a ski area in the winter or a lake area in the summer.
The AAA holiday tracking period began Friday, December 21 and continues through Tuesday, January 1. For air travel, the holiday time frame is 18 days – from Thursday, December 20 through Sunday, January 6. Airlines for America, an industry trade organization projects that 45.7 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines during its holiday tracking period.
Airlines for America says the heaviest air travel day ahead will be Wednesday, December 26. The lightest days should be Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Saturday, January 5.
Kansas City International Airport projects that 584,293 passengers will pass through KCI Airport during the winter holiday period. The airport says peak days will see approximately 37,000 travelers in and out of KCI.
Boardings at both KCI and St. Louis Lamber International Airport in St. Louis have grown over the past several years, largely due to increased service at both facilities by Southwest Airlines. St. Louis ranks 32nd in the country for boardings while Kansas City is 40th. Both airports are in the second tier category of “medium hubs”.
AAA’s breakdown of holiday travel by mode shows that most people will be making their journeys in automobiles. The 102.1 million expected to take road trips is 4.4 percent higher than last year and is the most since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2001.
Meanwhile, the 6.7 million people who will travel by air is the highest level since in 15 years and is 4.2 percent more than last year. And travel by trains, buses, and cruise ships will increase by 4 percent, with a total of 3.7 million passengers.
AAA’s analysis of flight booking data over three years shows December 26th will be the heaviest air travel day from now until the end of it’s holiday tracking period. Fewer holiday travelers choose to fly on Christmas Eve (Monday) and Christmas Day (Tuesday), which are the lightest travel days around the Christmas holiday.
The global mobility analytics company INRIX predicts travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be as much as four times longer than a normal trip. The heaviest travel time for the holiday period in Chicago is Monday between 1:30-2:30 p.m. when travel times will be 2 1/2 times longer than normal.