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Thanksgiving Travel for Local Residents Expected to Rebound Near Pre-pandemic Levels

High gas prices aren’t stopping Thanksgiving travelers.

Despite gas prices averaging $3.62 a gallon in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton area, AAA projects Thanksgiving travel will rebound to almost pre-pandemic levels and the majority of travelers will drive to their holiday destinations.

AAA projects nearly 60,000 area residents will travel this weekend. That’s an increase of more than 14% over the last year and falls just shy of the number of pre-pandemic Thanksgiving travelers in 2019.

Of that amount, more than 52,000 area residents will drive to their holiday destinations, up more than 9% over last year.

Air travel jumps more than 80%

At the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport, the Thanksgiving holiday has historically seen the biggest spike in travelers coming through security checkpoints and Transportation Security Administration officials expect that trend to continue.

“We are prepared to handle the increase in the number of individuals planning to fly during the days leading up to and immediately following Thanksgiving,” said Karen Keys-Turner, TSA’s federal security director for the airport.

Her advice is to get to the airport two hours before your scheduled flight, wear a mask and come prepared through the security screening process.

Carl Beardsley, executive director at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport, has consistently seen passenger activity increase over the last seven months.

The number of passengers jumped nearly 64.5% from 18,969 in October 2020 to 31,180 in October 2021, according to numbers he provided.

“We are preparing for a very busy Thanksgiving,” Beardsley said.

Beardsley said the Sunday after Thanksgiving always is busy and he doesn’t expect this year to be different. Ultimately, he expects to approach pre-pandemic numbers but not exceed them. He pointed out that 2019 was a record-breaking year for the airport, however.

If people wait until the last minute to purchase an airline ticket during the Thanksgiving holiday, Beardsley said they will pay a premium.

AAA projects nearly 5,000 area residents will take to the skies, a jump of more than 80% over last year but still down nearly 5% from the number of area residents that flew during the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday.

Bus, train and other transportation modes also up

Bob Chepalonis, general manager at the Martz Group in Wilkes-Barre, said bus travel is up from last year when it was limited.

“Based on our normal daily business to New York and Philadelphia, we do see more people traveling this week,” he said. “Our busiest days will be Wednesday and Sunday this week.”

The Martz Group transitioned its ticketing platform to “reservation only” in September, which means when you buy a ticket, you are guaranteed to ride the schedule that you purchased, Chepalonis said In the past, Martz only sold tickets on a first come first served basis and used backup buses to fill overloaded schedules, he said.

AAA projects that more than 750 area residents will travel by bus, train or some other mode of transportation over the holiday weekend. That marks a jump of 250% over last year when travel in a group setting was as low as has ever been since AAA has been keeping record.

Hotel and car rental rates increase

Daily car rental rates have increased 4% compared to last Thanksgiving at $98, according to AAA.

Over the summer, consumers experienced high costs and limited availability of rental cars in some markets due to a semiconductor chip shortage impacting automakers.

While the shortage has subsided, AAA officials said it could return as the holidays near.

According to AAA, mid-range hotel rates have increased about 39% with average nightly rates ranging between $137 and $172 for AAA-approved hotels.


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