Labor Day travel surge: Experts warn of road and air congestion

AAA is expecting this year to be much busier on the roads and in the skies than last September.

Travel experts say Friday afternoon is the worst time to be on the roads for the holiday. Heavy traffic is expected to last through 9 p.m.

Jam-packed roads will be a familiar sight on Saturday, too, with the heaviest traffic expected between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. There will be minimal traffic Sunday, as most drivers will already be at their destinations.

This year's top domestic travel spots include Seattle, Orlando, New York, and Las Vegas.

Now, if you are driving home on Monday, a travel expert recommends leaving after 7 p.m. due to congested roads. She also shared with FOX 32 Chicago some important reminders.

"Nationally, we expect to help 300,000 stranded motorists, and so if you are that stranded motorist, you want to pull over to the shoulder as far as you can, put your hazard lights on, call AAA, a tow truck provider will provide assistance, and if you are going to get out of the car, if you have to, look at oncoming traffic so you can do it safely," said Molly Hart, AAA spokesperson.

You're also encouraged to have an emergency kit in your vehicle that includes a phone charger, extra bottles of water, snacks, and jumper cables.

Meanwhile, air travel is also picking up for the holiday weekend.

United, for example, is gearing up for a record-breaking holiday with 2.8 million customers expected to fly with the airline.

Whether it's by plane, train, or car, experts say travel has returned.

"We have come a long way since the pandemic, and actually we have surpassed some of the 2019 numbers, which were the record numbers. So 2022, we hit in some areas, whether it be flying or taking the car, so people are resuming their travels," Hart said. "For those who do have kids, some of them might only be doing a three-day weekend because they have to be back in school on Tuesday. For those who are driving and coming home on Monday, my recommendation, our recommendation is to enjoy the day, the roads are going to be so congested, and we’re recommending that you leave at 7 p.m."

Monday's airline travel surge will take place between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Air travel has greatly improved since this time last year with fewer delays and cancelations reported.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stopped at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Friday to deliver an update on the state of air travel. He says the improvement is due to a focus on safety, staffing and being accountable to the flying public.

Secretary Buttigieg says he’s a traveler, like millions of Americans this Labor Day weekend. He says more people are getting on planes this final summer weekend.

TSA agents have screened a record number of passengers. At O’Hare and Midway, air travel is up 7% compared to last summer. To improve on last summer’s challenges, the government hired 1500 air traffic controllers, held airlines accountable for delays they cause and penalized customers for unruly behavior.

Buttigieg said during the pandemic there was a spike in bad behavior. It dropped, but recently there has been an uptick. He warned, passengers who interfere with safety could face criminal prosecution.


The secretary checked his flight time and took his luggage to the gate. Security was heightened more than for the average passenger. He asked the flying public to thank an aviation worker this weekend as they work to keep the public safe.

Another interesting stat: cruise bookings are up 19 percent this Labor Day compared to last.