2M Illinoisans expected to travel for Chicago Memorial Day weekend 2023; Buttigieg speaks on flights

Memorial Day 2023 Chicago: Beach days, barbecues and weekend getaways expected for many this weekend

Mark Rivera Image
Friday, May 26, 2023
2M in IL likely traveling this weekend; Buttigieg speaks on flights
Millions are expected to travel for the Memorial Day holiday, and US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is discussing his concerns.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- More than 2 million Illinoisans are expected to hit the roads this holiday weekend.

According to AAA and the airlines, pre-pandemic numbers on the roads and in the skies this weekend are expected to be met or beaten.

The worst time to drive was 3 to 6 p.m. Friday.

Whether you're revving your engine on the roads or packing planes this Memorial Day weekend, you'll be far from alone.

"Traffic jams, I mean, it's going to take forever to get home I'm sure," driver Patrick Clausen said.

But bumper-to-bumper traffic and slow going is no problem for some seasoned semi specialists.

SEE MORE: Memorial Day weekend marks the start of busiest travel season; are we in for another chaotic summer?

"I don't care. I drive a truck," one driver said.

In the skies at O'Hare, pilots and passengers are packing into planes after what U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said was a pretty spectacular travel day.

"Yesterday, the early data suggests we may have seen the busiest travel day since before COVID, and the system held up quite well; less than 1% of flights were canceled," Buttigieg said.

He said in an exclusive interview Friday, last year's flight meltdown spurred significant changes to the industry, issuing millions in fines to airlines for poor performance or customer treatment, adding consumer protections and means to send the Department of Transportation complaints.

RELATED: Chicago prepares for big lakefront crowds for Memorial Day weekend

"We follow up on all of them. Now we're getting thousands and thousands, so it can take a minute for us to get through them, but we have a team that sometimes will take it directly to the airline and says, 'you need to get this person covered,'" Buttigieg said.

Visit www.FlightRights.gov for more information.

United Airlines is also staffing up for unprecedented demand since COVID.

"We hired 15,000 employees last year. We are on track to hire 15,000 employees this year," said Laura Mandile, United managing director of customer service. "That's flight attendants, pilots, ramp service individuals, customer service agents to help our customers and be really ready for them."

But if you're toughing it out on your tires, remember it could be even tougher. You could have four young kids in your car, like Wisconsinite Kristin Zimmer.

"I just hope that we make it without too many issues in the car and not a whole lot of traffic, so that we're not in the car till nighttime," Zimmer said.

That mother is traveling three states for her Memorial Day holiday with family in Indiana.