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Memorial Day 2024: Weekend travel jams will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle the larger crowds than They are expected for Friday.

By early afternoon on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest traffic jams at the three major airports in the New York City area and at Dallas-Fort International Airport. Worth.

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more crowded than we’ve seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Díaz, AAA spokesperson.

When they’re not waiting out flight delays, travelers report being surprised by prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

“I just have to make the adaptations,” he said. “Car rentals have increased…this year, hotel accommodation was unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent flyer miles (and some flexible schedules) to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I am very conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’ll stay a little further away than usual” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’ll also come back a day later because we might get cheaper miles.”

There will be more travelers on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, and 38 million of them will travel by vehicle.

Airport unions take advantage of the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive garbage trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, began a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better wages and health care, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear if the strike played any role.

However, a planned strike at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport was averted. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo planes at JFK, said it reached an agreement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a strike planned for Friday.

“We are glad that an agreement was reached, that the need for a strike was avoided, and we are hopeful that our members will ratify the agreement,” said Demos Demopoulos, secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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