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Tips Could Save Travelers Time, Money

Gas prices over the Thanksgiving holiday are expected to be higher than last year. Fliers are urged to 'plan ahead and pack ahead.'

November 16, 2005|Wendy Thermos | Times Staff Writer

With the busy Thanksgiving travel period set to begin Friday, Southern Californians can expect shorter lines at Los Angeles International Airport but higher prices at the gas pump compared with last year, officials said.

The American Automobile Assn. predicts little change in the volume of traffic on the nation's highways and airports compared with last year, and Los Angeles-area officials echoed that forecast Tuesday. But travelers are being urged to take steps to minimize delays and inconvenience, especially at LAX.

"We need the cooperation and participation of the traveling public," said Lawrence Fetters, LAX security director for the federal Transportation Security Administration, which oversees airport anti-terrorism measures. "Plan ahead and pack ahead."

Prohibited items such as sharp objects, firearms and cigarette lighters are still being found in luggage with surprising frequency because travelers pack in a hurry, he said. According to the TSA, 1,800 cigarette lighters are confiscated daily at LAX despite a ban imposed in April.

The automobile association estimates that 37 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving holiday, less than a 1% increase over last year.

For the 31 million people traveling by road, gas will cost more than a year ago, but the price has dropped since last month.

In Southern California, the average price for regular self-serve gas on Tuesday was $2.64 per gallon, 27 cents higher than a year ago, but 31 cents less than on Oct. 18, AAA officials said. Nationally, the average price of $2.29 was down 48 cents in the last month, but it was 32 cents higher than a year ago.

Jeffrey Spring, spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California, said road travelers, like airline passengers, need to minimize stress and delays by looking ahead.

"They need to keep in mind that it's a compressed holiday," he said. "Many people drive while they're tired. They need to get enough sleep the night before. And plan for unexpected delays. Build in extra travel time because there will be more traffic than normal."

At a news conference at LAX on Tuesday, officials emphasized several time-saving tips for air travelers: Download and print boarding passes at home. Don't wrap gifts (screeners will have to unwrap them).

Use public transportation or shuttles to get to and from airports, and mark all luggage with identification.

Keeping an eye on belongings was cited as crucial. Reuniting forgotten laptops or other items with owners is a time-consuming process, officials said.

"Our No. 1 security concern is passengers keeping hold of their bags," said Capt. LaPonda Fitchpatrick of the Los Angeles Airport Police.

Since last spring, LAX has added eight passenger screening lanes throughout its facilities, bringing the total to 59, more than at any other U.S. airport. The change has dramatically cut lines at security checkpoints.

"That should keep foot traffic flowing smoothly" during the 11-day Thanksgiving travel period ending Monday, Nov. 28, said Lydia H. Kennard, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, the agency that operates LAX.

Passenger volume of 1.8 million at LAX and 200,000 at Ontario International Airport during the Thanksgiving holiday will be about the same as last year, officials predict.

Bob Hope Airport in Burbank will be busier than a year ago because Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways began operating there this year. Spokesman Victor Gill said parking and other improvements made since then are expected to move passengers as quickly as before.

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