Driving Avoids Hassle of Holiday Travel

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A record 41 million Americans took extended trips this Fourth of July, according to AAA. And those who chose to fly (about 5 million) instead of drive were likely to experience some turbulence, given the troubles airlines have been having.


If you're lucky, you're not among the holiday travelers who has to return to work today. AAA says a record number of Americans took trips this Fourth of July. And those who chose to fly instead of drive are likely to experience some turbulence, as NPR's Miranda Kennedy reports.

MIRANDA KENNEDY: Forty-one million Americans are traveling over this Fourth of July week. It's traditionally a driving holiday. So only about five million people flew to their vacation destinations this year. Mike Pena(ph) of AAA says that's probably a good thing, given the troubles airlines have been having.

Mr. MIKE PENA (America Automobile Association): We're seeing a surge of complaints, cancellations. Whenever there's problems with weather, you're going to see more airline delays. When you see more people traveling, you're going to see more airline delays. And so all those factors combined means that it could be a very difficult summer for people traveling by air.

KENNEDY: This week, the Department of Transportation said airlines experienced their worst delays in 12 years in May. That's the highest rate of delays since the government began tracking the numbers in 1995. Airlines also posted a sharp increase in cancellations. And airfares are higher than they've been in seven years. So AAA says passengers have to strategize.

Mr. PENA: Our message to travelers, basically, is that they need to practice defensive flying, which basically means you need to do a lot more prep work before you get on the plane. That means that you need to start using conveniences, like online ticketing and making sure you got food and, you know, medicine.

KENNEDY: Oh that may make your flight a little more pleasant, but if passengers want to avoid cancellations and delays, they may do best to pick and choose their airline. Northwest cancelled nearly a thousand flights last week. And the Department of Transportation says U.S. Airways holds the record for the most delays. In May, its Boston to Philadelphia flight was delayed 95 percent of the time.

Miranda Kennedy, NPR News, Washington.

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