The big getaway: Thanksgiving travellers hit the road and pack airports, despite terror fears

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The big Thanksgiving getaway went into full swing Wednesday with drivers delighted by the lowest November gas prices in years and many airline passengers undaunted by terrorism fears and long lines at security checkpoints.

At the White House, President Barack Obama said there is no “specific and credible” intelligence indicating a plot against the U.S. and assured anxious Americans: “While the threat of terrorism is a troubling reality of our age, we are both equipped to prevent attacks and we are resilient in the face of those who would try to do us harm.”

“And that’s something we can all be thankful for,” he added as one of the biggest travel periods of the year got under way.

Nearly 47 million Americans are expected to take a car, plane, bus or train at least 50 miles from home over the long holiday weekend, according to AAA. That’s the most travellers since 2007, a rise attributed to an improving economy and the cheapest gasoline for this time of year since 2008.

Chuck Ansbacher, a 34-year-old Brooklyn resident, said recent terror attacks in Africa and Paris didn’t faze him when it came to travel. He was still flying with his parents and sister from New York’s LaGuardia Airport for the annual family Thanksgiving in Burlington, North Carolina.

“We’ve travelled on this day every year of my entire life, so we weren’t going to not do it,” Ansbacher said. “It looks like a lot of people had the same thought because the airport’s packed.”

Joyce Landeck was about four hours into her nearly 1,100-mile Indianapolis-to-Denver drive when she made a pit stop in Missouri to find gas for $1.62 a gallon.

“Oh, yeah,” she said while clutching the leash of her travel partner, a Doberman named Murphy Brown. “It’s really, really nice when it costs 30 bucks to fill the tank.”

Erin Goff makes the trip from Lake Panasoffkee, Florida, to Wichita, Kansas, nearly every year and occasionally flies but decided “I wanted no part of that” this time for fear of a terrorist attack.

“That was out of the question,” she said. So she found herself taking a break from the 1,350-mile drive at a convenience store in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, where she marveled at the price of gas. “It’s going to cost about half of what it cost a year ago or two years ago.”

Some users of the popular navigation app Waze reported problems with it while driving Wednesday, including error messages that read, “Could not find a route.” Waze spokeswoman Julie Mossler blamed heavy demand and said the Google-owned service added more technical support and cleared up the problem around midday after at least an hour.

In the West, drivers faced fresh snowfall in California’s Sierra Nevada and rain in the San Francisco Bay Area. Motorists in Montana and Wyoming were warned of icy roads after wintry storms moved through. Travelers heading out on Thanksgiving Day could see 8 inches of snow in the Denver area.

Anyone heading to a major airport should factor in 50 extra minutes on the road, according to the traffic data company INRIX. And then there’s the time spent going through security.

In Atlanta, traveller Fatima Boyd said Transportation Security Administration officers were thorough but friendly.

“I think they’re making sure that everybody has safe travels and in great hands and nothing crazy goes on during the holidays,” she said. “So that’s a plus.”


Justin Pritchard and Amanda Lee Myers in Los Angeles; Johnny C. Clark in Atlanta; Corey Williams in Detroit; Brian Skoloff in Phoenix; Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City; Kelly P. Kissel in Galloway, Arkansas; and Jim Suhr in Wright City, Missouri, contributed to this article.