last-minute travelers hitting the road ahead of Christmas

Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport is bustling, with travelers either heading home for the holidays, or heading to Arizona to escape the cold.

On the night of Dec. 23, just before Christmas Eve, the airport was packed with travelers, and not many flights were canceled or delayed.

“My family’s here, and I’ll just be spending time with family and friends,” said Stefanie Merriet.

“We came down here to get a little warmth, escape the snow,” said one traveler, identified only as ‘Chris.’

While some travelers may not be plowing through snow in the Phoenix area, they still have to work their way through the crowded terminal, and catch seats on full flights.

“The only thing I don’t like about it is when you get stuck, ’cause the airport is so busy!” said one traveler, identified only as ‘Evan.’

Some traveled ahead of holiday rush

Some travelers headed to their destination earlier in the week to beat the rush.

“Seeing a lot of people. We just know it’s the holidays, so everyone is trying to get home to their families,” said a person traveling from New Mexico, identified only as ‘Esafefetu.’

For one family, home for the holidays has a special meaning this year. Jennifer Smith was welcoming her son, Nickolas Martin, home from the Army.

“I’m just excited to spend time with my family, to catch up on things I miss and just kind of go back to my life,” said Martin, who serves as a Private First Class with the U.S. Army.

“So proud of him, and Christmas without him there –  yeah, I probably wouldn’t even have decorated, honestly. So proud of him, and can’t want to get him home,” said Smith.

“It’s really great to have Nick back home, and I always love to see him,” said Martin’s brother, Jacob.

Estimates: 100m+ people to travel during 2021 holiday season

According to officials with the AAA, 109 million people will be heading out of town for the Christmas holiday, with many making up for canceled trips in 2020.

Meanwhile, TSA officials project travel numbers to reach levels near those seen prior to the pandemic.

Road trips remain the top mode of travel this holiday season, with more than 100 million people planning to hit the road.

Currently, gas prices average around $3.41 a gallon. While it is a bit lower than during Thanksgiving, it is still hitting drivers hard.

“It’s, like, $60 to $70 for a full tank,” said one driver, identified only as ‘Anthony.’ “Before, it was like $50 or $40, but now, it’s been, like, $60 to $70 since gas prices went up.”

Concerns persist over omicron variant

2021’s travel season is still being affected by COVID-19. On Dec. 23, it was reported that many flights are being canceled on Dec. 24 as a result of the omicron variant.

On Dec. 23, a United Airlines spokesperson confirmed to FOX Business that the nationwide spike in omicron variant cases has disrupted some of their flights.

“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation. As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport. We’re sorry for the disruption and are working hard to rebook as many people as possible and get them on their way for the holidays,” the spokesperson said.

United Airlines isn’t the only airline feeling the impact of the omicron variant, as Delta Air Lines is also blaming the omicron variant for some flight cancellations.

According to a Delta Air Lines spokesperson, around 90 flights are being canceled on Friday.

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