Winter Holiday Travel Update: Good Weather and Crowded Airports Expected Across the U.S.

Good news for those humming "I'll Be Home for Christmas" from the back of an airport security line or while sitting in traffic: clear weather conditions are forecast across most of the United States over the weekend, setting the scene for smooth—if crowded—holiday travel.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) predicted that 115 million Americans will travel between December 21 and January 1. Of those, 104 million travelers would hit the road, driving home for end-of-year celebrations. Meanwhile, more than 47 million passengers are expected to fly with U.S. airlines between December 19 and January 5, according to predictions by industry group Airlines for America. The figure marks a 3 percent increase over 2018.

Friday and Saturday, December 20-21, were slated to be the busiest air travel days of the holiday period, with close to 3 million travelers scheduled to fly each day, Airlines for America projected.

As of noon EST Saturday, the Federal Aviation Authority's Flight Delay Information page showed airports nationwide functioning smoothly with only three airports—Teteroboro, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International, and Dallas-Fort Worth International—reporting delays exceeding 15 minutes. In each case, the reported departure delays related to heavy air traffic flying into Eagle County Regional Airport near the popular ski destination of Vail, Colorado.

At Atlanta's Hartfield-Jackson Airport—one of the busiest airline travel hubs in the country—air traffic was moving fluidly. "Things are moving well at ATL thus far," Elise Durham, the airport's communications director told Newsweek via email.

Atlanta, like most of the Southeast, will likely see rain throughout the weekend, as a low pressure system tracking northeast along the northern edge of the Gulf of Mexico draws closer, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), which forecast rainfall across the region through Monday morning.

On the other side of the country, a front moving over the Pacific Northwest was expected to cause precipitation across parts of California and the Sierra Nevada mountains on Saturday, with a "moisture plume" forecast to reach Southern California late on Sunday.

"We're seeing no operational impact for us today," Charles Pannunzio, public relations specialist for Los Angeles World Airports, told Newsweek.

"If that changes we will let our audience know," Pannunzio added, noting Los Angeles airports' active social media presence. "We always urge our passengers to stay in touch with their airlines."

"Travelers should be getting used to crowded highways and airports, as this marks the eighth straight year of new record-high travel volumes for the year-end holidays," Paula Twidale, vice president for AAA Travel, said in press release ahead of the holiday rush.

For some hubs, the heaviest traffic may not arrive until after Christmas. "Based on current projections, which are always subject to change, the busiest days for us will be December 26 and December 29." Durham said regarding Atlanta airport traffic. "On both days TSA expects to check in excess of approximately 90,000 passengers."

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Lines of airplane passengers proceed through the TSA security checkpoint at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado, on August 30, 2019. Robert Alexander/Getty
Winter Holiday Travel Update: Good Weather and Crowded Airports Expected Across the U.S. | U.S.