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Thanksgiving air travel nearing pre-pandemic levels at Sea-Tac

AAA is expecting 2022 Thanksgiving travel to be the third-busiest year nationwide since 2000.

SEATTLE — Thanksgiving is days away, and the American Automobile Association (AAA) has projected this year to be the third-busiest Thanksgiving travel season since 2000, when it started tracking the data, with 54.6 million people traveling for the holiday.

Wednesday is the busiest travel day. Sea-Tac International Airport is expecting 155,000 people to go through the airport. TSA is bringing in more staff for the increase in travelers.

Sea-Tac is already seeing people come home for the holidays. Allison Farley is away at college in Dallas and reunited with her family for Thanksgiving break Saturday night. 

“I started crying when I saw my mom. I think there's a lot of emotions when you are not able to see your family all the time. Coming back I think the one word I would say is just a huge relief,” said Farley.

AAA estimates 4.5 million Americans plan to fly for Thanksgiving. Sea-Tac expects 13% more people to travel through compared to last year.

“It's going to be busy. Overall, we’re at about 95% of what we saw in 2019 pandemic travel. So we’re getting back to where we were,” said Perry Cooper, spokesperson for Sea-Tac International Airport.

Airport officials said the busiest travel times are in the morning from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. and are reminding people to arrive early and use its SEA Spot Saver program to help reduce long lines.

“It’s a virtual queue line that you get in the TSA general screening lines. You can sign up to 72 hours in advance and that gets you a 15-minute slot in reservation for the general screening line,” said Cooper.

Cooper said the airport offered more spots and expanded spot-saver hours to 10 p.m.

AAA said the majority of Thanksgiving travelers will be on the road. AAA data shows gas prices across the country and in Washington state are starting to decline. 

The agency said to expect crowded roadways.

“When we see more cars on the road, we also see more collisions,” said Trooper Robert Reyer with Washington State Patrol.

Washington State Patrol said it will have as many troopers on the roads as possible during Thanksgiving travel.

“It’s very important for us to be out there, not only to assist people that are involved in collisions, or other 911 callers, but also to be very proactive, and make sure that people get to their holiday destinations safely,” said Trooper Reyer.

Troopers said people rushing to their destinations often cause collisions.

“People just plan ahead, that they're aware of the driving and the weather conditions from their starting point to their destination, and then that they can plan accordingly,” said Trooper Reyer.

Troopers said from now until the end of the year it’s also focusing on high visibility and will use data collected to see which roads have the most collisions.

For Farley, she just looks forward to seeing her entire family.

“My sister is here from Colorado. My grandparents are coming up from California so we’re all spread around but we're all coming back home for the holidays.”

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