Despite record-setting gas prices and a spike in air travel costs, the number of people traveling Memorial Day weekend is expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels.
After the COVID pandemic scuttled vacation plans for two years, there’s a pent-up demand for traveling, said Don Redman, a regional spokesman for AAA. “This is one of the first opportunities in a while for people to travel,” he said. “They’re absorbing the higher costs to make sure their travel plans happen.”
The forecast is that 4.1 million people in the region of Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas will travel 50 miles or more, AAA said. That’s an increase of 8% over 2021 totals and a number in line for what was seen in 2017. A similar increase in activity is forecast nationwide, with AAA projecting an 8.3% increase in the number of travelers.
“Overall, we’re expecting a very robust Memorial Day weekend and that’s usually a bellwether of future activity,” Redman said. “We’re expecting a really good travel summer.”
Air travel is expected to be higher this Memorial Day weekend. Three million people are expected to fly Memorial Day weekend, AAA said, just shy of the total for 2019.
Regionally, Redman said 340,000 people are expected to fly this weekend, 25% more than for Memorial Day weekend 2021.
“People are really wanting to get to their destinations quicker,” he said.
During the first 15 days of May, bookings increased 2%, according to Adobe Analytics, which measures consumer transactions from six of the top 10 US airlines. That’s despite AAA saying that the average lowest airfare is up by more than 6% over last year.
The number of passengers flying out of Baton Rouge Metro Airport is expected to be higher this Memorial Day compared to last year. Lately, about 80% of the available seats have been occupied on flights in and out of Baton Rouge, said Jim Caldwell, an airport spokesman. The occupancy is projected to be a few percentage points higher this weekend, he said.
“All our flights are pretty full throughout the day,” he said.
As of Thursday, the average price for a gallon of regular, unleaded gas in Baton Rouge was $ 4.19 as of Thursday, according to AAA. That’s up 36 cents from one month ago and $ 1.50 from one year ago.
In the past week, average gas prices have gone down by about a penny in Baton Rouge.
“But I’m afraid the high prices probably won’t disappear anytime soon,” gas price analyst Patrick De Haan said. De Haan said he expects prices will increase heading into the weekend.
There’s a combination of factors behind these high prices, De Haan said: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to sanctions that raised prices and tightened supply. COVID shutdowns caused the US to lose 3% to 5% of its refining capacity.
De Hann said he’s “certainly not expecting” prices to tip over the $ 5 point in Louisiana. It would take a major, unexpected event like another Hurricane Ida for that to happen.
Despite the optimistic regional and national travel forecasts, people surveyed at Baton Rouge gas stations said they do not have any Memorial Day travel plans because of the high gas prices.
Mac Devall of Baton Rouge said he’s passing on making the normal holiday trip to see relatives in Houston, because of the cost. “It’s time to budget,” he said.
Hannah Goertz of Baton Rouge said she does not have any travel plans. “It’s hard enough as it is, just doing regular driving in Baton Rouge, with the gas prices,” she said.
James and Jamikia Veal said that gas prices have definitely impacted any travel plans with their children for this weekend and summer.
“We would have been going to Florida this weekend, otherwise,” James said.
“I think we’ll go across town to eat BBQ, instead,” Jamikia said, with a laugh.