GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – If you are on the road or in the air this Memorial Day weekend, you won’t find your highway to be lonely.

AAA is forecasting that travelers this weekend, the emotional start of summer (the real start is at 5:13 a.m. on June 21), will be undeterred by spiking gasoline prices – the highest ever recorded on Memorial Day – and inflation overall and hit the road at levels not seen since 2017.

AAA projects holiday traffic to be up considerably this Memorial Day. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

That figure would project to about 39.2 million, with about 34.9 million by auto and 3.01 million by air. Those levels, AAA calculates, are about 8.03% more than 2021’s actual counts. Air travel is showing a 25% increase, the second-highest rise since 2010.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation says AAA is forecasting about 1.2 million travelers to be on the state’s roads, which would be about 7.2% more than last year.

This is happening even though gas prices in Greensboro rose 12.4 cents last week, averaging $4.35 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, Gasbuddy.com has calculated.

Prices in Greensboro as of Sunday ranged from $4.09 to $4.69 and were about $1.43 a gallon higher than last Memorial Day. They are 60.2 cents higher than a month ago.

Those rates were slightly lower than the state’s $4.36 average or the nation’s $4.57, although local rates have risen higher than the national costs.

“Gasoline prices surged over the last week to new record highs, but have finally started to slow their rise with diesel also finally cooling off,” Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said in a release. “With more Americans planning to hit the road for Memorial Day this year compared to last, prices will be over $1.50 per gallon higher than last year.

“Though, prices are appearing to slow down, for now. While the coast isn’t clear yet, and prices will be at their highest Memorial Day level ever, I’m hopeful that we could avoid a dreaded national average of $5 per gallon this year. Whether or not we’re able to depends on Americans cutting demand in the face of sky high prices.”

NCDOT officials say, though, they are trying to ease some of your pain. They have shut down major construction projects because of lane closures on interstates, starting Friday morning and continuing until Tuesday night.

There could be some exceptions in areas in which reopening closed lanes isn’t possible because of the construction process. You can find real-time updates at DriveNC.gov

Up in the air

But if you decide to fly, you will find a greater percentage of your friends and family are flying, too, AAA reported. Those 3 million passengers forecast to be in the air this weekend will surpass the prepandemic levels of 2019, with 7.7% of all travelers choosing air.

The average lowest airfare is about 6% more than last year, averaging about $184 per ticket as of last week, AAA reported. The highest ticket prices are for flights on Saturday, and the lowest are those on Monday.

Top Memorial Day destinations, AAA says, are Orlando, Seattle, Miami, Las Vegas, Anaheim, California, New York, Denver, Anchorage, Alaska, Boston and Honolulu.

PTI’s air traffic

Piedmont Triad International Airport (News & Record)

Piedmont Triad International Airport continues to see steady progress toward passenger counts reached before the onset of COVID-19.

There were 92% more passengers at PTI in April than they were a year ago, which is up 112% year-to-date. But that remains about 25% lower than in 2019.

Looking ahead to June, though, scheduled departing seats are at 87,842, which is 5% better than last year but still about 26% below 2019.

By comparison, Charlotte is showing a 59% increase in traffic from 2020, with about 43.3 million passengers, Airports Council International reports.

Be ready for airport volume

FamilyDestinationsGuide.com forecasts that the average price of a domestic flight ticket in North Carolina is $330.50, which is higher than the national average of $327.13, but that doesn’t deter the forecast of increases in flights and passengers.

And that may not go so smoothly, FamilyDestinationsGuide.com warns, because the surge in passenger numbers following the easing of travel restrictions will have an impact on waiting times between checkpoints like check-in counters, security screening and baggage collection. The TSA reports air passenger traffic is expected to be more concentrated over peak periods.

“While it is great news that travel has fully opened up and families can finally have proper vacations, the combination of increased demand and staff shortages have the potential to cause significant delays and an overall sub-par travel experience,” said Rose Ackermann, executive editor at FamilyDestinationsGuide.