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Business & Economy

Columbus airports report uptick in Thanksgiving holiday travel compared to last year

Passengers move through an airport terminal.
Columbus Regional Airport Authority
Passengers move through a terminal at John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

As folks flock to holiday destinations for Thanksgiving, AAA predicts some 55.4 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles from home in the third-busiest turkey day travel season since the organization started keeping track in 2000.

While about 49.1 million people are expected to drive, some 4.7 million people will fly, the highest number of air travelers since 2005.

Columbus Regional Airport Authority Communications Manager Sarah McQuaide said over 210,000 seats were booked on flights out of John Glenn Columbus International Airport and Rickenbacker Airport between Nov. 16 and Nov. 29. That’s about an 11% increase from last year, McQuaide said.

The busiest days to fly will be the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday and Monday after the holiday, with some 17,300 to 17,500 travelers departing each of those days. Wednesday will also be busy, with about 16,700 seats booked.

McQuaide encouraged air travelers to pack smart, arrive with a parking plan and use their airline’s mobile app. She recommends arriving at least 90 minutes early for domestic flights and two hours early for international flights.

“You can never be too early, because you can always come and hang out, do some shopping, enjoy our restaurants if you like,” McQuaide said.

Those traveling through John Glenn Columbus International Airport can look out for the airport’s volunteer team of therapy dogs, Paw Force One. The program has about 10 teams of dogs and handlers ready to help relieve stress and anxiety.

McQuaide noted that John Glenn Columbus International and Rickenbacker airports now have 53 non-stop destinations, with the newest ones being San Diego and Kansas City with Southwest Airlines and Salt Lake City with Delta Airlines.

The airports’ top destinations last November were Orlando, New York City, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale and Atlanta, McQuaide said.

As for people hitting the roads for the holiday, AAA expects the worst time to travel to be between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

AAA also expects to have to rescue some 360,000 drivers during the holiday travel period.

Allie Vugrincic is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She comes to Columbus from her hometown of Warren, Ohio, where she was a reporter, features writer and photographer for four years at the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator newspapers.