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Thanksgiving travel 2020: What to expect in WNY

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Posted at 11:35 PM, Nov 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-24 23:35:25-05

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WKBW) — On the eve of America’s busiest travel day of the year, it is estimated the Buffalo Niagara International Airport saw 1,700 outbound passengers, which is only a fraction of the daily 7,500 passengers. Road travel is thought to be the main mode of transportation this year, according to AAA, but it is all relative during the pandemic.

For 2020’s Thanksgiving, AAA is estimating a 10% drop in travel.

“Taking a look at your average travel day this year and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving it’s definitely going to be busier both in the airports and on the roads than what we’ve grown accustomed to,” Elizabeth Carey with AAA Western and Central New York said.

Rising COVID cases, warnings from officials and the pandemic in general may be to blame for the drop. Carey said 95% of holiday travel will be on the roads.

“One of the reasons for that, it has flexibility. You can decide at the last minute, ya know, what I’m going to leave my car parked and I’m not going to go,” Carey said.

For road trips, Carey suggests planning ahead, packing snacks to limit stops, bring sanitizer and wear a mask.

While the Buffalo Niagara International Airport is seeing almost double the number of passengers outbound than inbound this holiday week, the airport is not seeing a surge other airports across the country are seeing. A part of the reason why that is not the case is the Canadian border remains closed.

“We kind of hoped it would be open by now and then maybe by the beginning of the year and then maybe by our big spring break periods, but I don’t see that happening,” NFTA Aviation Director William Vanecek said.

Almost a third of BNIA's passenger base comes from Canada. Vanecek said it is nearly impossible to make up those losses as the border closure continues. The other part of the reason, Vanecek said is statewide travel restrictions.

“I haven’t really traveled much because I was staying at school, but the airports are a lot less crowded than normally at this time of year,” Macy Baxter said. She came home for Thanksgiving from college, flying through Chicago Tuesday night. Likewise, Anastasia Casciani is a University at Buffalo student flying home to Long Island for the holiday.

“I feel like it’s like safe and everything like that and everyone stays their distance and I think it’s like the worst thing as long as you’re safe,” Casciani said.

Owen Charles, 8, is also headed downstate with his parents.

“We are in this airport because we are going to take a trip to New York City and we’re going to spend Thanksgiving there," Charles said.

As for the remainder of the holiday season, Vanecek predicts it will be slow.

“It’s a pretty, pretty quiet and hate to say it almost a depressing situation quite frankly,” Vanecek said.