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UPDATED 11/23/11 12:09 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Gas prices and airfares are higher this year than last, but cost isn’t keeping people home for the holidays.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, crowds flooded at O’Hare International Airport all morning, on what is considered the busiest day of the year at the airport. No major delays were reported.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports
WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports for the most part Wednesday morning, travelers appeared to be in good spirits – particularly because most of the flights were departing on time.
Kelly Hickey was headed to see family in Atlanta, and was traveling with her Yorkie, Cookie. That presents some other issues.
“I have to check things that I would normally probably have to take with me, and I have to be really nice to the ladies up here so they’ll let me through with these three bags, because I’m going to try to sneak through this shopping bag,” Hickey said. “If not, then everything has to be compacted into (one bag.)”
Also, among all the travelers at O’Hare Wednesday, at least one didn’t realize she would be smack dab in the middle of one of the biggest travel days of the year.
Jessica Iscarai had been studying English in Chicago, and was moving back home Wednesday to Venezuela.
“I actually didn’t know that it was going to be that busy, then my dad told me, ‘It’s the day before Thanksgiving, so you have to be really early.’ Here I am. I didn’t want to miss my plane,” she said.
And off she went, pulling two gigantic suitcases and a pink duffel bag – what she says are the contents of her whole life.
A total of 217,000 passengers are expected to pass through O’Hare over the course of the day.
AAA projects a 1.8 percent increase in air travel over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend compared to last year.
AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher says nationwide, 42.5 million people are traveling this weekend both on the roads and in the air, an increase of 4 percent from last year and the first significant rise in travel for all of 2011.
Some 2 million people in Illinois are expected to travel this holiday weekend, an increase of 3.8 percent from last year.
“Thanksgiving tends to be the holiday that defies the economics because so many people want to travel to be with family and friends,” Mosher said. “It’s such an important holiday to be with family that they’re going to travel no matter what.”
Jeanenne Torantore of Orbitz says around the country, travelers should expect delays for flights to East Coast airports, including New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and even Charlotte, due to rainy, inclement weather.
“But here at O’Hare, we’re expecting things to be pretty nice in terms of weather today, so things should be moving pretty smoothly,” she said.
Flights to the northeast will likely be delayed about 45 minutes to 1 hour, Tornatore said.
There were some delays at O’Hare on Tuesday night because of the rain, but flights were on time by Wednesday morning.
Thus, security lines were expected to be long.
Former Transportation Security Administration official Justin Oberman said for getting through security lines, the main thing to keep in mind is to make sure you have enough time. He suggests arriving at least 90 minutes early.
Oberman also advises packing light, because anyone who gets pulled aside for additional screening and has to empty a carry-on bag will hold up the line.
But he doesn’t anticipate any problems at O’Hare Wednesday.
“Generally, it’s moving pretty smoothly today, and I think the lines are pretty short,” he said.
Oberman also pointed out a smart phone app that might be useful for those who get stuck waiting at the airport. The app, called “Before You Board,” allows passengers to order food from restaurants in the terminal while waiting in the security lines. The food is ready for pickup right away and can be taken onto a flight.