Traffic Chicago: Millions expected to pass through airports, hit roads Wednesday

Get live traffic updates in link below for Thanksgiving 2022

ByDiane Pathieu, Evelyn Holmes, and Maher Kawash WLS logo
Thursday, November 24, 2022
Millions expected to pass through Chicago airports, hit roads
The Thanksgiving travel rush is back on this year. People getting behind the wheel or boarding a plane don't seem fazed by higher gasoline and airfare prices.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Thanksgiving travel rush is back on this year.

People getting behind the wheel or boarding a plane don't seem fazed by higher gasoline and airfare prices than last year or the widespread concern about inflation and the economy.

Wednesday is the busiest travel day for this Thanksgiving holiday at Midway airport. Experts predict a passenger increase of over 24%.

Meanwhile, at O'Hare there is a passenger increase of just 2.7%, with the busiest day at O'Hare being Sunday.

Approximately 1.7 million travelers will pass through both Chicago airports this week into next Monday.

Live look at traffic across Chicago area

Nationwide, the TSA screened more than 2.6 million travelers on Monday, surpassing the 2.5 million screened the Monday before Thanksgiving in 2019. That is despite airfare costing passengers more than ever before.

Passengers prepared for the rush by planning ahead.

"We came a little early so we don't have to worry or move too fast," Ashana Garcia said.

"For me, it's mental. Put it in your head, space yourself, prepare ahead of time, get here early out the way," passenger Robert Walker said.

Gas prices are also higher than they have ever been this time of year.

"I just make it work, I just make it work. What else can we do? You know, you have to travel, you have to get from point A to point B, and sometimes public transportation is not an option. You just make it work," commuter Pam Jackson said.

Still, AAA predicts 54.6 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home in the U.S. this week, a 1.5% bump over Thanksgiving last year.

"In Illinois, 2.8 million people are traveling for Thanksgiving; 2.4 are traveling by car nationally. Eighty-nine percent are traveling by car. The roads are going to be super busy," said Molly Hart, with the AAA Auto Club Group.

And there may be some good news at the pump, albeit slight; average gasoline prices in Chicago have fallen 19 cents per gallon in the last week. The national average has fallen over 11 cents per gallon in the last week.

TSA and Customs and Border Protection officials are already warning of longer than usual wait times and checkpoints, so travelers are urged to plan accordingly.

"Pack smart. Leave all of the prohibited items out of your carry-on bag. There's a big delay at the checkpoint when the bag goes thru the scanner; if we see a prohibited item, we have to say 'hey is this your bag.' We have to identify it, and remove it. So it's a big step passengers can take to get the line moving," TSA regional spokeswoman Jessica Mayle said.

Traffic was picking up later Wednesday, ahead of the long weekend. The roads are expected to be exceptionally busy Wednesday afternoon.

Although there were big crowds at Chicago's airports Wednesday morning, they tended to come in waves throughout the day.