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Friday, Aug. 31, 2018

Gas prices up, so is travel as Arizonans grab end-of-summer holiday

WASHINGTON – Gas prices are up, but that does not seem to have dampened Americans desire for travel this holiday weekend.

Air carriers said this week that they expect a record high number of passengers for the three-day Labor Day weekend, with an estimated 16.5 million passengers expected to fly this holiday on the nine major U.S. airlines. That’s up from 16 million last year, according to Airlines for America, a national airline association.

And travel closer to home has been strong all summer and “we expect to continue very, very strong” for Labor Day, when Arizonans take advantage of the last gasp of summer, said Michelle Donati, spokeswoman for AAA Arizona.

This despite steadily rising gas prices. The national average price for a gallon of gas this summer is $2.83, up from $2.45 on Labor Day 2017, the AAA said. In Arizona, the price has gone from $2.29 a gallon last year to $2.86 today.

In Arizona, most travelers are likely to hit the road and go upstate than leave Arizona, Donati said, heading north to escape the heat of Tucson and Phoenix.

“We don’t think heat is a deterrent for travel. It might even be a motivator,” Donati said. “Labor Day weekend is the most popular weekend for Arizonans to spend outdoors.”

The trade group Airlines for America said it expects the number of fliers this Labor Day holiday – which it measures from Wednesday to Tuesday – to rise by 500,000 travelers over last year. (Chart courtest Airlines for America)

But with kids in Arizona been back in school for a few weeks already, she said most of those traveling this weekend are likely to be couples.

While Valley residents may be fleeing north, not many people will be flocking to the Valley this weekend.

Because of the September temperatures, Phoenix isn’t a strong Labor Day weekend destination, said Scott Dunn, director of communications at the Arizona Office of Tourism. He said hotel occupancy for this week in the city is the third-lowest among the top 25 markets in the country.

Getting out of the state is a different story. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport expects to have “busier passenger traffic” this weekend when extra staff will be on hand to help, said Gregory Roybal, an airport spokesman.

The busiest days at airports this weekend will be Friday and Monday, and Roybal advised travelers to check their flight status before heading to the airport to see if their flights have been canceled or delayed. He also reminded travelers to “arrive two hours before their flight departs or three hours if flying internationally.”