Saturday, July 21 , 2018, 6:19 pm | Fair 71º


Local News

Southern California Roads and Skies Expected to Be Jammed Over Thanksgiving Weekend

Santa Barbara Airport predicting its busiest Turkey Day week since 2011

An Alaska Airlines jet prepares to land at the Santa Barbara Airport. Officials expect crowded conditions for the Thanksgiving weekend, and urge travelers to arrive early for their flights. Click to view larger
An Alaska Airlines jet prepares to land at the Santa Barbara Airport. Officials expect crowded conditions for the Thanksgiving weekend, and urge travelers to arrive early for their flights. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and with the holiday comes a high number of Southern California travelers heading to the airport and roads over the weekend.

The Santa Barbara Airport anticipates its busiest Thanksgiving holiday week since 2011, according to Airport Director Hazel Johns.

The busiest days are expected to be Saturday and Sunday as both have more than 40 scheduled arriving and departing flights, Johns said.

The airport has seen an increase in passengers traveling since June, and expects that to continue as travelers pass through over the holiday weekend.

“The airport’s three commercial air carriers – Alaska, American and United — have been filling up seats for travel in and out of Santa Barbara this week,” Johns said. “The month of November is solidly on track to beat last year’s numbers.”

Passengers are encouraged to remember most airlines require travelers to be checked in and seated at the gate for boarding no later than 20 to 30 minutes before departure time.

TSA checkpoint lanes will be open by 4 a.m. to aid early morning passengers.

“TSA has coordinated closely with the airport and the airlines to make sure the screening process goes smoothly,” SBA Operations Manager Tracy Lincoln said.

Travelers are encouraged to check with their airline for flight-specific information and call TSA at 866.289.9673 for questions about item restrictions. 

If needed, the airport plans to provide additional long-term parking spaces, John said.

SBA has experienced 3.6 percent growth in passengers as of Nov. 1 and expects to wind up the year with a 5.2-percent increase, according to Johns.

Those traveling by car are encouraged the brace themselves for Thanksgiving traffic.

The Automobile Club of Southern California projects the highest number of Turkey Day travelers in nearly a decade, according to predictions from AAA.

In Southern California, nearly 3.65 million residents will journey out of town, 3.1 percent more than in 2015.

This year marks the highest volume of travelers for Thanksgiving since 2007, when 3.99 million Southern California residents took holiday trips.

Santa Barbara, San Francisco, the Grand Canyon, San Diego and Las Vegas are designated as AAA’s top five destinations for Southern California, according to a survey of AAA travel agents.

AAA attributes the increase in travelers growth to greater disposable incomes, higher wages and increased consumer confidence. 

“As with the Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays in 2016, we are seeing that travel has almost returned to the heights of popularity it achieved in the middle of the last decade,” AAA spokesperson Jeffrey Spring said.

California Highway Patrol Officer Maria Barriga said traffic is predicted to get busy starting Wednesday.

“Expect delays on the road,” Barriga said. “Leave early if you are traveling and give yourself a good time buffer.”

The roads may improve early Thursday, but after 10 a.m. it is expected to get congested again, she said.

Friday and Sunday are also expected to be busy travel days.

“It tends to be a little hectic,” Barriga said. “On Sunday, people tend to be heading back to work and from their vacations.”

Barriga offered tips on safe holiday travel and encouraged drivers to make safety a priority.

Drivers should check all passengers use of seat belts and car seats at all times, avoid drinking and driving, have a designated driver, and keep their eyes on the road.

“Don’t text or look at directions while driving,” Barriga said. “Don’t drive when you are tired. Be watchful of pedestrians in residential areas and at crosswalks.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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