Roads, skies less full for travel rush


Neither airport in Oakland or San Jose expects an increase of Thanksgiving holiday travelers, but at SFO, a slight increase of up to 8,000 more passengers is anticipated. Even so, a AAA travel survey shows a two percent decrease this year of Californians traveling more than 50 miles from home, whether by car or plane.

When it comes to air travel, the big tip from all airports is for passengers to arrive 90 minutes before domestic flights and two hours before international ones. SFO estimates the wait at its security lines to average five to seven minutes with up to a maximum of 20 minutes. Nationwide, AAA says the economic downturn is causing air travel this year to take the biggest hit with a seven percent drop.

Between the air and the road, an estimated 41 million people plan to travel this year - that's about a 1.5 percent drop from last year and the first decline in six years. But thanks to declining gas prices, car travel is taking a smaller dip. Although fewer Californians plan to drive this holiday, it doesn't mean you won't hit holiday traffic. The best time to hit the road on Wednesday is before 9 am, the worst will be from noon to 7 pm. As for the most congested roads in Northern California -- that will be interstates 80, 580 and Hwy 152.

Another bonus at SFO, the airport and a company called Celltrust are launching 'Flight Assist.' This is a real-time texting service that will provide flight arrival times and other information to passengers and those traveling to the airport to pick up travelers.

"There's a new service we'll be announcing today, where basically you can sign up for it and you get text messages about the status of your flight - when it arrives, if there is going to be a delay or anything like that. So you have real-time information as far as the oncoming status of a flight as you come into the airport," said Mike McCarron, SFO spokesperson.

If you're hoping to use public transit, the regional transit agencies, from BART to AC Transit and VTA, are all operating Thanksgiving Day. All three airports offer cell phone waiting areas where drivers can wait up to 30 minutes, at no charge, to pick up arriving passengers. To help with the holiday rush, BART and all the Bay Area airports are offering extra parking options.

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