Planes, Trains & Automobiles: Holiday travel heats up in NOLA for busy Thanksgiving weekend

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Thanksgiving is regarded as the busiest travel time of the holiday season, and this one is expected to be the busiest since the COVID-19 pandemic first began nearly two years ago.

In fact, the American Automobile Association (AAA) predicted that 53 million people would travel this Thanksgiving season and that’s about 13 percent higher than last year and within 5 percent of pre-COVID numbers and local travelers have certainly contributed already.

Holiday travel comes in all forms, and the way folks left New Orleans today depended a lot on how you choose to travel like Betsy O’Neil and her granddaughter who chose Amtrak to Jackson, Miss., to see their family.

“I just like to watch the scenery go by, and it’s so relaxing to be on a train rather than all the hassle of the airport,” said O’Neil.

Like most of the local carriers, Amtrak is seeing a dramatic increase over last year’s COVID holiday.

“We’re about 65-70 percent of normal going into this holiday weekend,” said Amtrak spokesperson, Marc Magliari. “So, we’re riding a pretty strong wave and it’s going to be a pretty busy weekend, both today the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and even more on the Sunday after.”

WGNO also saw passengers leaving to go see family by bus, but make no mistake, the majority of holiday travelers are flying out of MSY with some 137,000 seats available for the weekend.

“Ticket counters, airline operations, you might expect some of the special services, wheelchair services things of that nature might go a lil’ bit slower than you might expect due to staffing issues,” explained Kevin Dolliole, Director of Aviation at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

Make no mistake. these minor travel issues are a small inconvenience for the chance to be with loved ones.

“My family couldn’t come here, so I decided I would go up there,” said Amtrak traveler, Edna Johnson. “That’s what I miss most the gatherings.”

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