The number of Americans traveling this Memorial Day weekend will reach the highest level since 2005, say experts.
Thanks to low gas prices, Americans have more disposable income for summer travels. The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that Americans have saved $15 billion on gas this year compared to the same period in 2015. Though gas prices have gone up slightly in recent weeks, they are still near their lowest levels in 11 years.
Cheap gas is only part of the story. The job market has flourished recently, with about 2.4 million jobs added since Memorial Day 2015, according to the Associated Press. That, coupled with higher wages, has allowed Americans to save up for vacations.
More than 38 million Americans are expected to travel this weekend, a 2 percent increase over 2015. Almost 90 percent plan to drive to their destination – a 2 percent increase from last year’s holiday, and the highest number since 2000, according to AAA.
About 3 million people will fly, a slight increase from 2015, and about 1.6 million will use some other means of transportation, including trains, buses, and cruises – a small decrease from last year.
The soaring travel numbers are good for the economy, as the travelers are expected to spend a total of $12 billion, 1.2 percent increase from last year’s total spending, according to the Hill. But some have expressed concerns about transportation systems, particularly at airports which have recently been experiencing staggeringly long lines.
“What we're seeing is that the demand for travel is greater than ever – but that leads to the question of whether our transportation infrastructure is equipped to support that job-creating activity," Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer of the US Travel Association, told the Hill. "Unfortunately, the overwhelming body of evidence tells us the answer is no."
On Tuesday, TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger announced that the agency would replace its assistant administrator for security operations, in an attempt to ease the long lines that have plagued airports in recent months.
Some doubt whether the replacement will change anything.
"The timing of this decision is too late to make a real difference for the summer," said Andrew Rhoades, an assistant federal security director at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport who has filed a whistleblower complaint against TSA, the Christian Science Monitor reported. "Neffenger is only doing this because the media and Congress are making him look bad."
Nearly 7,000 American Airlines passengers missed their flights during a spring break week this year because of long airport lines.