Are travelers getting used to airline fees, or is fee fatigue spurring more road trips? The slightly higher number of travelers taking to the roads this Memorial Day weekend may also be driven by airline capacity cuts. At any rate, at some juncture there will be a tipping point where the airline fee frenzy becomes just too much and decisively changes traveler behavior.
The number of Americans driving during the Memorial Day holiday weekend will rise 0.3 percent from a year earlier to the highest level in eight years, according to a forecast by AAA.
Approximately 31.2 million Americans plan to drive to their destinations, up from 31.1 million who drove last year, according to Heathrow, Florida-based AAA, the biggest U.S. motoring organization. The number of air travelers will fall 8 percent to 2.3 million, a four-year low.
AAA estimated 34.8 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the four days ending on the May 27 holiday. That’s down 0.9 percent from 35.1 million a year ago, a drop attributed to consumer unease about the economy.
“American travelers are experiencing fee fatigue and frustration with everything from higher fares to airport security,” Robert Darbelnet, AAA president and chief executive officer, said in a statement today. “As a result, many are choosing road travel in higher numbers due to the lower cost and convenience it offers.”
The average price of regular gasoline at the pump was $3.66 a gallon yesterday, according to AAA data, versus $3.68 a year earlier. Prices have climbed 13.8 cents in May.
A survey of intended travelers found that gasoline prices would have no impact on plans for 62 percent of travelers.
Memorial Day marks the traditional beginning of the summer travel season and the peak period for gasoline use. This year, the holiday falls a day earlier than in 2012. Weekend holiday travel tends to be more robust when the holiday falls later in the month, AAA has said.
The average distance traveled will be 690 miles, up from 642 a year earlier. Median spending will fall to $659 from $702, AAA said.
The projections by AAA are based on research and forecasts from IHS Global Insight.
–Editors: Richard Stubbe, Charlotte Porter
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