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Memorial Day weekend travel rush: South Florida airports, roadways expected to be busy

Travel crush expected for Memorial Day weekend
Travel crush expected for Memorial Day weekend 01:47

MIAMI -- Memorial Day marks the start of the summer travel season and travelers in South Florida were expected to take to the skies and roads for holiday getaways.

AAA predicts that 37 million Americans will drive at least 50 miles from home this weekend, an increase of more than 2 million from Memorial Day last year but still below pre-pandemic numbers in 2019.

The Transportation Security Administration expects to screen 10 million travelers between Friday and Monday, a 14 percent increase over the holiday in 2022 and slightly more than in 2019.

"Airfare is about 40 percent more expensive than it was last year but we are still seeing a lot of air travelers this year," AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said. "So you should expect long lines of security checkpoints. You know if you check a bag you can expect lines there, too." 

Miami International Airport officials said it is expecting nearly 900,000 passengers over the holiday weekend from Thursday to Tuesday, with an average of 144,000 travelers projected each day. 

Airport officials said in a written statement that its passenger loads are similar to last year's holiday weekend traffic.

Officials at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport said its busiest travel days would likely be Friday and Monday, with daily passenger counts approaching 110,000 travelers each day. 

For air travelers, airline industry officials say carriers have fixed problems that contributed to a surge in flight cancellations and delays last summer, when 52,000 flights were nixed from June through August. Airlines have hired about 30,000 workers since then, including thousands of pilots, and they are using bigger planes to reduce flights but not the number of seats.

"I don't have the hubris to tell you exactly how the summer is going to go, but we have prepared and we have a robust plan for it," said Andrew Watterson, chief operating officer at Southwest Airlines, which struggled at times over the summer of 2022 and suffered an epic meltdown around Christmas, canceling nearly 17,000 flights.

David Seymour, the chief operating officer of American Airlines, said his staff has fine-tuned a system it uses to predict the impact of storms on major airports and devise a plan for recovering from disruptions. He said it is reducing cancellations.

"It's going to be a solid summer for us," Seymour said.

For passengers expecting to travel, experts advise that:

  • Departing passengers should arrive at least two hours earlier for flights, following the airline's guidance on check-in and bag processing times. 
  • Flying direct and early in the day to help avoid delays. 
  • Checking the big-picture weather. Plan for delays if the weather forecast calls for storms or rain.
  • Pack an extra set of clothes and medications in a carry-on bag in case there are issues with your luggage. 

There is a bit of good news for drivers, however.

The national average for a gallon of regular was $3.56 at midweek, down from $4.60 at this time last year, according to AAA. Renting a car is also cheaper than a year ago, when some popular destinations ran out of vehicles. Travel company Expedia said larger inventories let the companies rent more cars at lower prices.

CBS News Miami Teri Hornstein and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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