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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Holiday Travelers Take to Roads

DALLAS -- Fewer people in the United States are expected to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, and those who do are more likely to drive as Americans worry about airplane security and take advantage of lower gasoline prices.

Industry experts expect air travel to be down at least 15 percent from a year ago, due largely to the weak economy and travelers' fears after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the deadly crash last week of a jetliner in New York.

At Dallas' Love Field, some travelers admitted they were worried but said they decided to fly anyway. Katie Blakeney, 14, was flying to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to visit family for the holidays.

"She said she wasn't going to let terrorists ruin her life," said Katie's mother, Tracy, who was seeing her off Monday.

The American Automobile Associations estimated that 34.6 million Americans will travel at least 80 kilometers from home during the Thanksgiving holiday, a 6 percent decline from last year. A record 87 percent are expected to drive, while the number taking airplanes, trains and buses is expected to drop 27 percent due to a decline in air travel, the AAA said.

Rose Rougeau, a spokeswoman for the AAA of Texas, said the rush to the highways is a combination of air fright and low gasoline prices -- under $1 per gallon in some places.

Greyhound Bus Lines reports a 20 percent surge in advance-purchase tickets for the Thanksgiving period and an increase in trips longer than 1,600 kilometers.

"This makes us think we're picking up travelers from the airlines," said spokeswoman Kristin Parsley.

Amtrak is getting 10 percent more inquiries about tickets than it did one year ago, when the passenger rail service carried 567,000 people, said spokeswoman Karina Van Veen.

The Air Transport Association, which represents the major U.S. carriers, said air travel probably would decline 15 percent to 20 percent from last year.

Other analysts expect steeper declines. Michael Boyd, an aviation consultant in Colorado, predicted a 25 percent drop.

People aren't convinced that air travel really is safer, despite U.S. President George W. Bush's signing of a new aviation security law Monday, Boyd said. The law adds more law officers at airports, more bag searches, more cross-checking of passengers with FBI lists, and by the end of next year, it will require screeners to be federal employees and airports to have all checked bags put through explosives-detection machines.

Those who do fly this week will already be facing stricter security than a year ago and will likely find airports clogged with holiday travelers who aren't used to the changes, said Terry Trippler, a Minneapolis-based travel analyst.

"Henrietta still doesn't know that she can't take darning needles on the plane," Trippler said. "The lines will be long at the baggage check, and they'll be long at security."

For airlines, hotels and others in the travel industry, the concern is whether the travel slump will linger into winter.

"The holidays are going to get a lot more people to fly," said Steve Loucks, a spokesman for Carlson Wagonlit Travel, the country's No. 2 travel firm. "It's getting them to travel at other times that's the concern of nearly everyone in the industry."

But even the holidays could prove a tough sell for the airlines.

Ginachi Amah, an environmental engineer in Los Angeles, scrapped plans to fly to Nigeria over the Christmas break with her husband and sons, aged 8 and 9.

"The kids do not want to get on a plane. I asked them why not, and they just went 'whoosh,'" Amah said, as she gestured with her hands to show an airplane crashing.