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Thanksgiving travel costs are on the rise

The average airfare for travel Wednesday to Sunday to the 10 most popular U.S. destinations has jumped 11% over last year, an analysis shows.

November 21, 2011|By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times
  • Transportation Security Administration Administrator John Pistole testifies during a hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
Transportation Security Administration Administrator John Pistole… (Alex Wong, Getty Images )

If you plan on traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, the cost of your trip will probably be higher than last year, and the financial pain could strike almost every aspect of your vacation. Even the cost of the turkey dinner.

The average round-trip airfare for travel Wednesday through Sunday to the 10 most popular destinations in the United States has jumped 11% to $373 compared with the same period last year, according to an analysis by Orbitz Worldwide Inc., one of the nation's busiest travel websites.

Flights to New York for the holiday will rise the most, jumping 20% over last year, with an average round-trip price of $342, according to Orbitz. Round-trip flights to Los Angeles will jump 12% to $429, according to the travel website.

Meanwhile, the average hotel rate for the nation's top 25 destinations for Thursday to next Monday is expected to jump nearly 5%, to $126.35 per night, according to a report by TravelClick Inc., a New York company that provides e-commerce products and services to the hotel industry.

New York has the highest average hotel rates, $205.99 per night, an increase of 3.7% over last year, according to TravelClick. In Los Angeles, the average hotel rate will go up 4.6%, to $112.42 per night.

And you won't escape the higher prices by driving: Gas prices reached the highest levels ever in the week before Thanksgiving, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area was $3.82 per gallon last week — 66 cents higher than the same time last year.

And with food prices on the rise, the American Farm Bureau Federation is predicting that the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner in the U.S. will rise 13% this year, the biggest increase in two decades.

John Wayne Airport baggage system gets OK

Just in time for the holiday crowds, officials at John Wayne Airport in Orange County say they have repaired a faulty baggage-handling system at a new terminal that opened last week as part of a $543-million expansion project.

The pressure was on at the airport because the new terminal — Terminal C — opened Monday with a baggage system that had failed to pass a certification test by the Transportation Security Administration. The system combines the conveyor belts installed by the airport with the baggage screening machines of the TSA.

Without TSA certification, the system was shut down, and passengers traveling through Terminal C on Southwest Airlines or Frontier Airlines were forced to go to Terminal B to fetch their luggage.

But on Friday airport officials had good news: The baggage-handling system had been certified and would be operating by Sunday.

At least 386,000 Southern Californians are expected to fly for the Thanksgiving weekend, a 1.9% increase over last year, according to a forecast from the Auto Club of Southern California.

TSA says study on airport scanners no longer needed

TSA chief John Pistole is backing off a promise to have an independent panel look into the health effects of the full-body scanners used to screen passengers at the nation's airports.

Pistole told a congressional panel this month of his concern that some travelers still fear they will be harmed by going through airport scanners that use the so-called backscatter technology, which relies on radiation to detect objects hidden under the clothes of passengers.

"We will conduct an independent study to address that," he told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

But last week, Pistole changed his tune, saying the TSA recently received a draft report from the inspector general of the Homeland Security Department that confirms the conclusion of previous independent studies that the scanners are safe for all passengers.

For now, Pistole said another study is not needed. But he told Cable News Network last week that he will "work with Congress to see whether that addresses their concerns." For good reason: Congress approves the TSA's annual budget.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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