New Yorkers’ great holiday escapes off to a good start

22 11 2007

flight11.jpg

Every plane in this illustration – all 6,998 of them – shows a flight over the U.S. at 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday. And that was just a warm-up for today.

New Yorkers hit the highways and skyways in record numbers Wednesday heading to points near and far, lured by a baked bird that can’t fly – and so far, so good.

At least through the late afternoon, no major problems were reported in the metro area – even at one of the busiest bottlenecks: LaGuardia airport.

Although many arrivals were behind schedule by an hour or more, departures were moving relatively smoothly – with delays of no more than 15 minutes at most gates.

“It’s so much better than I thought it would be,” said Victoria Wallm, 24, of Dallas.

Her boyfriend, Kenneth Harris, 24, lugged their Boston terrier, Charley, who somehow talked his way into being included on the family trip to Texas.

“You need to be positive before Thanksgiving,” Harris said. “LaGuardia is pretty good this year.”

Officials said a 25% increase in staffing helped speed passengers through security check points. President Bush’s decision to open up some military air space to commercial flights also eased delays somewhat.

“Things are rolling along pretty well,” said Warren Kroeppel, the airport’s general manager. “It’s like a normal day at the airport.”

Even so, many travelers weren’t taking chances: Andrew Thompson lives upstate and arrived a whopping seven hours early.

Despite rising gas prices and fears of air delays, a record 38.7 million U.S. residents were expected to travel 50 miles or more as part of the largest predicted Thanksgiving pilgrimage ever.

Many New Yorkers may have already left town but others were hoping to beat the evening rush on what is often called the busiest travel day of the year.

At Pennsylvania Station, knots of people gathered with heavy suitcases in the Amtrak waiting area.

Ryan Bevilacqua and Jeremy Lyon, 23-year-old childhood buddies, were headed back home to Harrisburg, Pa. They said riding the train beats driving any time.

“The drive from here to Harrisburg? It’s awful,” said Bevilacqua. DailyNews.com

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