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Americans Defy Inflation Fears As Holiday Weekend Travel Hits Record High

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Travelers walk through Salt Lake City International Airport on May 24. via Associated Press

Air travel is consistently exceeding pre-pandemic levels, as record numbers of people using U.S. airports during Memorial Day weekend signaled a busy summer travel season ahead.

The Transportation Security Administration said it screened more than 2.9 million travelers at airports across the country on May 24, breaking the previous record set in November during the Thanksgiving holiday rush. May 23 was the third busiest day on record, per the TSA, with just under 2.9 million travelers.

“TSA Officers have set a new record for most travelers screened in a single day!” the agency said on X, formerly Twitter.

Five of the TSA’s 10 busiest-ever travel days have been recorded since the start of this month, according to a graphic tweeted by the agency, emphasizing how stubborn inflation and extreme weather have not kept people from their vacation plans.

While inflation has fallen to 3.4%, the cost of living remains high after the measure took months to tick down from a post-pandemic high of 9.1%. The Federal Reserve is also holding off cutting interest rates amid fears that inflation has not cooled sufficiently, keeping the cost of borrowing high for most Americans.

The 10 busiest travel days on record, according to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.The 10 busiest travel days on record, according to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

The 10 busiest travel days on record, according to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. TSA

The numbers appear to track with a forecast by the American Automobile Association, which said earlier this month it was expecting to see Memorial Day weekend travel numbers hit highs not seen in almost 20 years.

The group estimated that 43.8 million people would travel 50 miles or more over the holiday travel period ― a 4% surge over last year, and close to 2005’s record of 44 million.

Of those, more than 38 million people are driving, the highest figure for this holiday since AAA began tracking in 2000.

Using data from analysts INRIX, the AAA has highlighted the best and worst times to drive to avoid traffic. For May 27, it says the best time to travel by car is after 7 p.m.

“Travel times are expected to be up to 90% longer than normal,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Travelers should stay up to date on traffic apps, 511 services, and local news stations to avoid sitting in traffic longer than necessary.”

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