Road, air travel expected to rebound this Memorial Day weekend


CHICAGO — Memorial Day weekend traffic is expected to resemble pre-pandemic levels, with Americans emerging from COVID-19.

More than 1.8 million Illinoisans are taking to the roads and airwaves for the holiday, according to transportation officials. As a result, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have upped their operations, some of which will be working at Chicago’s two airports. Officials have hired an additional 3,000 plus security officers to screen security checkpoints. The Chicago Department of Aviation expects 827,000 passengers to pass through beginning Thursday through Tuesday – the highest levels since 2019.

Alderman Matt O’Shea, who chairs Chicago’s Aviation Committee, says the city has been preparing for an increase in travel and the economic boost it will bring since January.

“There are several economic engines that really drive our economy here in the Chicagoland area and at the top of that list is O’Hare International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world,” O’Shea said. “And just below that is Midway International Airport.

“The sooner we get air travel back, the sooner we can really cut into out losses these past 15 months.”

As for the roads, AAA expects 37 million people to drive 50 miles or more from home – a 60-percent increase from last year. But amid soaring gas prices, AAA’s Molly Hart says current-day prices closely resemble 2014.

“What we need to take into account is last year 2020 was an outlier when it came to gas prices because there was low demand,” Hart said.

More people on the roadways could mean longer travel times, officials warn. As the nation approaches the 50% threshold of Americans vaccinated, one couple tells WGN they are ready to put their face masks aside and soon.

“We’re burned out,” said a woman named Julie Ann. The couple adds that they’re heading to Las Vegas for a  Las Vegas for the BNEA billiard tournament – and are ready to be poolside with a drink in hand.

As a reminder, masks are still required inside the airports and on airplanes.


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