Tags: people | driving | alone | thanksgiving | economy

Hardy Economy Puts Fewer People in More Cars for Thanksgiving

Hardy Economy Puts Fewer People in More Cars for Thanksgiving

Monday, 25 November 2019 05:10 PM

The road home for Thanksgiving will be more crowded than it’s been since 2005, thanks to a strong economy and more drivers going solo.

Traffic is set to be especially snarled with nearly 18% of U.S. road travelers driving alone this holiday, up from 15% last year, according to retail price tracker GasBuddy. At the same time, air travel is on pace to hit a fresh record boosting ticket prices even as airlines pay less for jet fuel.

Despite the added demand for fuel, prices at the pump are little changed compared to last Thanksgiving, giving Americans a little extra money to spend on travel. Jet fuel during the period when most travelers bought their tickets was also cheaper than last year, while ticket prices rose, boosting margins for airlines.

Lonely Highways

From 1977 to 2017, the most recent year with data, the average number of people per car traveling for social purposes has fallen by 0.3 to 2.1, according to U.S. Department of Transportation statistics.

Auto club AAA spokesman Jim Stratton says gasoline is plentiful now, and so are cars, and both of those contribute to cutting the number of people per vehicle.

“Unless your significant other is going with you, it’s not likely you are going to be going to San Diego or wherever to drop someone off and then go home,” said Nancy McGuckin, a travel behavior analyst in South Pasadena, California. “So traveling alone is a matter of convenience for many.”

GasBuddy says national retail gasoline should average $2.56 a gallon this Thanksgiving, a penny above last year, and that drivers will spend an average of 4 to 6 hours per trip.

Michaela Bonforte, a GIS analyst in Washington D.C. travels to Westchester, New York, for the holidays. She does the drive alone about half of the time and spends $100 or more per trip on gasoline for her Jeep Wrangler.

“It’s busier during the holidays and there is more pressure because more people are on the road and it’s a limited time frame to get there,” Bonforte said.

Thankful Airlines

Trade group Airlines for America said it expects a record 31.6 million passengers to fly on U.S. planes worldwide during the 12-day Thanksgiving period, a rise of 3.7% from last year. The group is forecast that aircraft, on average, will be 87.6% full this year, the highest since at least 2009.

Although jet fuel prices are lower this year than last year, airfares are higher. Most travelers book their flights for Thanksgiving between Sept. 25 and Oct. 27 and paid $491 on average per ticket, according to AAA. That compares with an average price of $478 at the same in 2018.

Wholesale jet fuel prices in the Gulf Coast market -- which includes the nation’s busiest airport at Atlanta and fourth-busiest at Dallas -- averaged $1.86 a gallon when most people were buying airline tickets, 17% lower than in 2018, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The traveling masses are benefiting from a stronger economy, said GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan.

“The solid economy is giving many more Americans the desire to hit the road or skies for Thanksgiving amidst gas prices that are pretty close in most places to last year and at far lower levels that earlier this decade,” he said.

© Copyright 2020 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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The road home for Thanksgiving will be more crowded than it’s been since 2005, thanks to a strong economy and more drivers going solo.
people, driving, alone, thanksgiving, economy
Monday, 25 November 2019 05:10 PM
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