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Mayday: Thanksgiving airport congestion will soon be year-round reality

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Transportation,Travel,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

The nation’s airports are in such disrepair that the unusual Thanksgiving congestion that frustrates and delays millions of travelers will soon be a weekly reality at nearly all of the top airports, according to the nation’s leading travel association.

Within five years, 24 of the top 30 airports will see passenger levels equal to the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at least one day a week or worse, according to two new reports from the Washington-based U.S. Travel Association and the Eno Center for Transportation.

“Rising demand will be stifled without a significant effort to modernize infrastructure, and unfortunately the moment of greatest need has already arrived,” warned U.S. Travel President Roger Dow. "Over the next decade, delays in our aviation system have the potential to inhibit travel and economic growth, and current federal policies are not structured to effectively address anticipated capacity issues," added Eno Center President Joshua Schank.

The reports are being released Wednesday and were provided to Secrets. They studied Thanksgiving traffic at the top 30 U.S. airports which account for 70 percent of the nation’s air travel. Among the top findings:

-- 24 of the top 30 U.S. airports will experience passenger levels equal to the Wednesday before Thanksgiving [WBT] at least one day during the average week within five years.

-- One in five of our major airports are already experiencing Thanksgiving-like congestion levels at least one day every week, including John F. Kennedy International in New York, McCarran International in Las Vegas, Orlando International and Chicago Midway International.

-- Within the next decade, 25 of the nation's top 30 airports will experience the same congestion as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving two days each week.

-- Within the next 15 years, every other day will feel like the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at more than half of America's largest airports.

-- From 2004 to 2012, delayed arrivals on the WBT were 2.22 percent higher than the national average. While a 2.22 percent increase may seem small, adding it to the number of total arrivals in 2012 would translate to an additional 119,000 arrival delays each year, or 329 arrival delays each day.

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.