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Thursday, December 7, 2023

With Thanksgiving travel rush and storm lurking, many try to get ahead of holiday chaos

NEWARK, N.J. — Many people trying to get ahead of the storm already started their Thanksgiving travel Monday. 

It was probably the calmest Newark Airport is going to be for at least the next week, but the holiday travel rush is lurking

“No problems whatsoever. It was a great trip. Zero stress, zero backups,” said traveler Mark Rodriguez. 

“Much better than we expected. We thought it was gonna be a mob and chaotic. But no, check-in was smooth,” said Milagros Ortiz.

Tuesday and Wednesday are expected to be the busiest days for travel ahead of Thanksgiving, and of course that’s nothing compared to Sunday’s mad dash to make it home. 

John Weigand, managing director of operations at Newark Liberty International Airport for United Airlines, told CBS New York the airline has been planning for this week since the summer. 

“Our travel is up 5% from pre-pandemic levels and up almost 13% here from last year,” said Weigand. 

With bad weather approaching, United hopes to avoid a similar travel meltdown to what happened last year, when a winter storm canceled thousands of flights over Christmas. 

“We’re prepared, all of our winter ops. The de-ice teams are all ready to go if we should need them. We’ve rehearsed that numerous times here at the airport. So we’re prepared for anything that Mother Nature will dole out,” said Weigand. 

AAA projects more than 55 million people nationwide will travel for Thanksgiving between Wednesday and Sunday. That’s the third most in the 21st century. 

“The drive out of New York wasn’t great, but once we got to Jersey it was fine,” said Elizabeth Nelson. 

Nelson wasn’t taking any changes. She left for the airport four hours early. 

“My friend left through JFK two days ago and she went to Florida and it took her two hours to get to the airport, and then TSA alone took her an hour and a half. So I was like I’m gonna play it safe,” she said. 

AAA warns Wednesday will be the busiest day on the road with driving time up about 88%. 

“We’re anticipating upwards of 320,000 breakdowns nationwide from Wednesday until Sunday. Flat tires, dead batteries, top two items we get calls for. So give those things attention before you hit the road,” said AAA’s Robert Sinclair. 

Even though the roads and airports were mostly quiet Monday, we found one person waiting for the rush: taxi driver Ahmed Ahmed. 

“Business is slow, very slow,” said Ahmed, who will be working 12 hours a day through Thanksgiving. “It’s gonna be a good time to make money ’cause business has been slow lately.” 

AAA says the best time to travel is Thanksgiving morning. 

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