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Gas prices, airline fees hit holiday travelers

May 23, 2008 9:11:46 PM PDT
Record high gas prices and new airline fees may curtail some travelers this Memorial Day weekend.Enjoying this Memorial Day could be a real challenge for many families. Millions were expected to hit the roads for the unofficial start of summer but the soaring price of gas is forcing some to change their holiday travel plans.

"The numbers are down slightly from last year, which is very telling. It really tells us that gas prices are finally having that effect on travel," said Beth Mosher, AAA Chicago.

AAA projects a slight decrease, about one percent, in overall travel this weekend because of the higher costs to drive and fly.

"In all modes of transportation are down for this holiday weekend over this time last year. Whether airline prices are up fewer people are traveling on the airlines, the trains, so it doesn't matter how you are getting there, fewer people are going," said Mosher.

With the price of fuel continuing to rise, some are opting not to travel this summer.

"We're starting to think a few things that we planned to do this summer locally that we might not do. It's just not worth it. Probably just stay home," said Joe Bowlby, holiday traveler.

"Traveling closer to home, and they are discovering places in their own back yard that perhaps they haven't been to before," said Mosher.

But many people are digging deeper into their wallets for their holiday travel plans.

"I just have to do it. I have to get away. I'm going to do it. It's not that far. Only about an hour and a half drive. Hopefully I will give up something else. Maybe one less coffee at Starbucks this weekend," said Katie Daley, holiday traveler.

Meanwhile, Chicago area drivers will get a break from some road construction this weekend. The Illinois Department of Transportation will suspend lane closures where possible, starting Friday at 3 p.m. Those lanes will stay open until midnight on Monday.

Officials say they expect more than 1.36 million passengers to travel through Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport over the Memorial Day holiday. Department of Aviation officials say the busiest day should be Friday.

But the airline industry's turbulent finances are also affecting travel plans. American Airlines rocked the industry this week when it announced a $15 fee for checking just one bag. The airline says the fee is needed to recoup losses from the high price of jet fuel.

"If you drive, you have to pay for the gas. If you fly, you have to pay for the gas. Any way you go, you're paying for the gas," said Nikita House, air traveler.

Other airlines are said to be examining American Airline's new fee and could soon do the same thing.

United Airlines ratcheted up the pressure on fliers ahead of the holiday weekend, raising most domestic fares by as much as $60 roundtrip to offset the runaway cost of fuel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.


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