Christmas Eve travel calm at the airport, busy on the road

Data pix.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- This holiday season is expected to break records as far as the number of air travelers goes.

There were massive delays over the past several days due to bad weather on the East Coast and in the case of Sacramento International Airport, a computer failure.

But Christmas Eve, it was a different story for last-minute travelers -- at least at the airport.

This year, 15.9 million travelers are expected to be in the air in the week before New Year’s Day, a 4% increase over last year.

But Christmas Eve is the slowest day for air travel during the holiday period. By Tuesday, most who travel by air have already made it to their destinations.

Sacramento International Airport’s Terminal A was practically deserted on Christmas Eve afternoon. Terminal B, which houses Southwest Airlines, was a bit more active because of all the short West Coast flights that were scheduled.

Still, Sarah Williams noticed the difference.

“San Diego was pretty busy. I’m flying from San Diego, so this airport seems to be somewhat not busy,” she said.

The same can’t be said for state roadways, which got more crowded as the day progressed. Most people on the road Christmas Eve and Tuesday night have shorter destinations, within 100 miles.

The California Highway Patrol says there’s no reason to speed.

“Whether you’re going 65 miles per hour or 75 miles per hour, it doesn’t really make that big a difference as it pertains to time in that small of a distance,” CHP Officer A.J. McTaggart said.

The CHP will be out in force from Tuesday until midnight on Christmas Day. Last year, 16 people were killed during the period and 350 people injured -- with over a thousand drunk-driving citations.

“The person in front of you, to the side of you or even behind you could be doing something they are not supposed to, right? So you need to pay attention to your surroundings,” McTaggart said.

It’s one reason some choose to restrict their driving over the next two days.

As for motorists and air passengers, the worst is yet to come. AAA expects huge highway tie-ups on Thursday, the day after Christmas.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday could be a nightmare for air travelers except for those who have reached their final destination.

“I’m good now. This is the end side of my travels,” Williams said. “I’m ready to settle in.”

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