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Automobile club predicts decline in holiday travel

November 22, 2008|Catherine Ho | Ho is a Times staff writer.

The gloomy economy is thwarting many Californians' holiday travel plans, as fewer are expected to take trips during the Thanksgiving weekend, mirroring a national decline in holiday travel.

Statewide, about 5.2 million people will travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, a 2% drop from last year, according to a forecast released Friday by the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Southern California will see a similar drop, with the number of travelers sinking 2% to 3.2 million. About 82% of local travelers, or 2.68 million people, will be driving.

Nationwide, about 41 million people will travel 50 miles or more from their homes over Thanksgiving weekend, a 1.4% decline from last year's 41.6 million, according to AAA's annual survey released Tuesday.

Los Angeles-area airports are also predicting sharp drops in airline travel.

Los Angeles International Airport holiday travel will be down 14.3% from the 1.85 million passengers that passed through the airport last year, airport officials said Thursday.

Ontario International Airport will be hit with a 30% decline, primarily because ExpressJet and JetBlue have stopped flying out of the Inland Empire airport.

"There's no doubt that recent economic uncertainty is impacting Thanksgiving travel," said Jeffrey Spring, spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California.

"But the good news for travelers is that this is the cheapest 2008 holiday for car travel, with gas prices about half of what they were over the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays," Spring said.

On Friday, the average price for gas in Los Angeles County was $2.29 a gallon -- 97 cents less than the average a month ago and $1.11 less than a year earlier.


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