Are We There Yet?

Holiday travelers wait for check in at the Terminal 1 of the Los Angeles International Airport, Friday Dec. 23, 2005. Expect more cars on the highway and more passenger screening at the airports this holiday. AP

Millions of Americans are driving, flying, riding the rails or maybe even a sleigh or two to get to grandma's house for Christmas.

People who are flying, rather than driving, can plan on more random screenings at airport checkpoints. And there will be additional searches.

At Washington's Reagan National Airport, Linda Cleveland says she checked with the airline ahead of time to see what she could bring with her on her flight to Texas. And she learned that none of her packages could be wrapped.

To get people in the holiday spirit, Andy Leighton, who works at the airport, has been playing holiday tunes on his French horn a little while each day for travelers passing through.

The high levels of travel come despite higher gas prices, according to the American Automobile Association.

"Gas prices are actually 40 cents higher than they were this time last year," AAA's Mantel Williams said on CBS News' The Early Show, but they're actually 85 cents cheaper than what we saw Sept. 5 when we were looking at $3 a gallon. That is a welcome early Christmas for motorists."

Williams doesn't expect to see the sort of congestion that occurs with Thanksgiving, though.

"Travel is usually spread out throughout the two weeks, so you won't see the kind of congestion that you see during Thanksgiving," he told co-anchor Russ Mitchell.

In many states, like Massachusetts, police will crack down on holiday drunks behind the wheel, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.

"We're going to make it personal when we try to enforce these laws during this holiday season," said Shrewsbury, Mass., police chief Wayne Sampson.

Those who skip the roads in favor of flying also will face stepped-up random screenings at airport checkpoints, a security measure meant to dissuade terrorists.

"Doing this is a way of adding unpredictability to the screening process in order to deter terrorist attacks," Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Jennifer Peppin said Wednesday in a cell-phone interview from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

In the past, boarding passes indicated which passengers had been randomly selected by computer for screening. Travelers also attracted additional scrutiny if they set off a metal detector.

As of Thursday, passengers and their bags will be subject to more screenings. In most cases the process should take about two minutes.

Not so at Washington's Dulles Airport, reports Strassmann. Some passengers missed their flights because of security lines longer than Santa's list, and had trouble rebooking with planes so full.

"It's totally frustrating. The family's upset. We planned this for a long time and it cost a lot of money," said stranded passenger Bill Ade.

"The common consensus from everybody — from United, Independence Air, United, American, USAir — is either you go to another airport and pay $700 to $1,000 for a new ticket, or you wait on standby, or you fly out in another two days," said Susan Ford-Molvik.

"It's pretty terrible. So much for the happy holidays, right?" she added.

The calendar means more people will be taking off for the holidays.

"When both Christmas and New Year's fall on a weekend, that means we're going to see a lot of people trying to get out of town and take this entire week off," Travelocity's Amy Ziff told CBS Radio News.

Travel experts recommend leaving extra time at the airports.

"It's a zoo out there," Tom Parsons of BestFare.com said on The Early Show. "If you're checking bags be there at least two hours (early). If you're carrying on, 90 minutes. Leave a little wiggle room."

Parsons also recommends printing boarding passes before you leave for the airport, and re-checking flight schedules.

"I booked my tickets in August," he told Mitchell. "The airlines adjusted my return flight by 36 minutes earlier. That means if I did not look at my airplane flight schedule and thought this was written in stone, I wouldn't have gotten to the airport an hour early. I would actually, by airline rules, be six minutes late. They could deny me boarding."
  • Lloyd Vries

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