DC-area fliers ‘knock on wood’ on busy Friday before Labor Day

A group of Labor Day weekend travelers at Dulles Airport.(WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
As passenger lines grew and dissipated at Dulles International Airport, Friday morning, many knew traveling on the Friday before Labor Day would be busy.

And for the past few days, they’ve had the weather effects of Idalia, which is now off the east coast, after causing devastation in Florida, and other states in the southeast.

With travelers seizing the opportunity for one final summer vacation, some passengers booked flights recently — others, far in advance.

“This trip’s been on the books for about two years, but we booked our flights about six months ago,” said a man and his golfing buddy, as they checked their clubs, heading to a resort in Oregon. “Knowing it would be busy, we booked early in the morning.”

In the past few days, they’ve had Idalia in the back of their minds.

”We were keeping an eye on it — all forecast said it was going to push out to sea,’” he told WTOP. “Obviously, things can change, but we’ve gotten lucky.”

”Thankfully, knock on wood we’re good, so far,” echoed his friend.

As her husband parked the car, a woman sat with four large suitcases — the couple was headed to a cruise, in Alaska.

The cruise was booked months in advance, so she was jittery knowing Idalia could alter their air travel plans, which include changing planes in Chicago.

”Luckily, ours has not changed, due to the weather,” she said. “Hopefully we won’t have any problems today.”

On the roads

WTOP’s Mike Murillo was at a rest area on Interstate 95 southbound in Laurel on Friday morning talking to travelers.

One of those stopping for a quick break was Randy, who was coming from Connecticut to Bristow, Virginia, to visit family.

“Tons of traffic, just an awful trip,” said Randy, who is going to see his daughter and granddaughter.

Another traveler, Kate from Long Island, New York, had a little bit of a different story so far.

“Fine, good, not sure what other adjectives I can put in there,” Kate said. “I don’t want to jinx it.”

Sarah from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, said she’s on the road trip part of her trip to Portugal.

“There’s been a little bit of traffic coming down, actually it’s our first time going to Washington, the airport. But it seems like it’s going easy so far,” she said.

How many people are traveling compared to 2022?

This will be the third busiest holiday weekend of the year so far, behind only the Juneteenth weekend, which included Father’s Day, and the Presidents Day break, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s prediction.

And Thursday was believed to be the busiest day in U.S. airspace, with 52,203 flights scheduled, followed by 49,111 flights on Friday, according to the FAA.

Flights are scheduled to be busy on Monday and Tuesday as well, after slowing down on Saturday and Sunday.

The Transportation Security Administration is expected to be even busier than last year, screening 14 million passengers from Friday to Wednesday, which is an increase of 11% since the same time last year.

WTOP’s Mike Murillo, Valerie Bonk and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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