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Video: Holiday travel rush gets into gear

  1. Transcript of: Holiday travel rush gets into gear

    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: Here at home, the holiday travel rush is officially on. And the estimated 24 million Americans expected to fly to their Thanksgiving Day destinations are having to deal with those tough new airport screening techniques. We have got things covered, from the airports to the roads and rail, and Al 's holiday forecast well. We're going to begin with NBC 's Tom Costello . He is at TSA checkpoint at Reagan National Airport . Tom , good morning to you.

    TOM COSTELLO reporting: Hi , Meredith , good morning to you. And we're watching this checkpoint because, remember, this is the day that some on the Internet have called for a national opt-out day; protest, they claim, protest those full body scanners and tie up TSA checkpoints as a way of protesting. I would say this is probably about a 10, 15 minute wait or so. It's been moving pretty quickly, pretty well throughout the morning. But the concern is that if there are protests, it could cause backups and delays. Most years, travel on this day before Thanksgiving is all about the weather. But this year it's about how many travelers might choose to protest and tie up TSA checkpoints by opting out of those new full body scanners and insisting on a pat-down. The opt-out organizer says he chose this day for a reason.

    Mr. BRIAN SODERGREN (Opt-Out Organizer): You're going to choose a day when people are paying attention and when most folks are going to be flying. I mean, it doesn't make sense to do it any other time. I don't think anyone's going to miss Thanksgiving because of any sort of protest.

    COSTELLO: That would be welcome news at Chicago 's O'Hare International , the nation's second busiest airport ...

    Offscreen Voice #1: Please still board on time.

    COSTELLO: ...and United Airline 's national nerve center...

    Offscreen Voice #2: Our security lines here are currently flowing very smoothly.

    COSTELLO: ...where they keep track of 6,000 daily flights, scheduling, routing, catering, maintenance and the biggest variable of all...

    Unidentified Man: Weather is very, very much an impact on our operation.

    COSTELLO: Now combined with Continental Airlines , United starts its holiday planning during the summer.

    Ms. ALEX MARREN (Senior Vice President of Operations, United Airlines): Given the processes we have, we're prepared o handle whatever comes our way.

    COSTELLO: While 1.6 million Americans will take to the air this holiday week, the vast majority of travelers are going by car this Thanksgiving , some 40 million of us.

    RYAN: AAA roadside assistance. This is Ryan , how can I help you?

    COSTELLO: At the AAA call center in Denver , the holiday crush is on.

    Unidentified Woman: But the keys are with the vehicle, the doors are unlocked.

    COSTELLO: Eleven hundred service calls each day for dead batteries, flat tires and lots of lockouts.

    Ms. WAVE DREHER (AAA Colorado): They tend to lock their keys in their car more during Thanksgiving than other times of the year.

    Mr. TED MONTANYA: I am 25.

    COSTELLO: Starting on Black Friday , call volume jumps 30 percent. That's where Ted Montanya comes in.

    Mr. MONTANYA: I'd recommend bringing it in as soon as you can.

    COSTELLO: One of AAA 's 50,000 road assistance technicians on duty nationwide, trying to get cars back up and running again; some 350,000 cars between today and Sunday.

    Mr. MONTANYA: Sometimes we get lucky. That's all it is.

    COSTELLO: Back here at the airport, flightstats.com says that the airlines have a pretty good track record for getting people to their destinations on this day before Thanksgiving . Eighty percent -- generally 80 percent arrive on time. The worst is the Monday after Thanksgiving , that drops to 64 percent.

    Meredith: All right, Tom Costello , thank you very much . It is now 7:11, and with more, here's Matt.

    VIEIRA: All right, Meredith , thank you.

    MATT LAUER, co-host: Let's get more on how the roads are looking today. NBC 's Thanh Truong is at the Georgia Department of Transportation Navigator Center in Atlanta . It sounds impressive, Thanh . What goes on there?

    MATT LAUER, co-host: Well, Matt , look, Atlanta 's considered the crossroads of the South , and there's going to be a crush of drivers coming to and through here in the next several days; millions, in fact. And the folks here at the Navigation Center will be watching it all. They have a system of about 2,000 cameras to monitor traffic conditions. And if anything happens -- you can see some of those on the big screen -- if anything happens, they'll dispatch help and send crews out there as well. Thirty-nine -point-seven million Americans will be driving this Thanksgiving , so do the math. They say that more drivers on the road means more accidents. So please, do take your time getting to grandma's this Thanksgiving as well. And we're just getting word from AAA today that there's some concern that there could be possible major delays on the I-95 corridor because of a lot of construction there. So if you're going through -- going through there, please watch out.

    THANH TRUONG reporting: All right, Thanh Truong in Atlanta for us this morning. Thanh , thank you very much . It's now 12 after the hour. Here's Meredith .

    LAUER: Matt , thank you.

    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: Thanksgiving travelers opting to take trains will not find relief from the crowds. NBC 's Mike Taibbi is at New York's Penn Station with more. Mike , good morning to you.

    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: Good morning, Meredith . Yeah, it's been crowded here for hours. For Amtrak , the nation's largest rail carrier, this is going to be the busiest travel day of the busiest travel week of the year; some 127,000 people riding the rails probably on the way toward and probably past the weeklong record of 686,000 travelers that were set last year. Now, with every available railcar pressed into service, that means a few things. You should make a reservation because it's going to be almost impossible to just show up and get a ticket. Show up at the station early so you can pick up your ticket at a kiosk or a ticket window. And even though this is not air travel , there is a suggested luggage restriction of only two pieces of luggage. It's not going to be enforced. I can see now by looking around, a lot of people have more than that. Amtrak is going to be adding extra trains on the busiest part of the system, from the Northeast corridor to the Pacific Northwest . And it's also one more change, one more tweak. If you're riding a long-distance with a dining car , you can get a special Thanksgiving dinner , turkey with all the trimmings, in case you didn't get it at grandma's house or you really just love turkey. Meredith :

    MIKE TAIBBI reporting:

Photos: Airport Body Searches

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  1. (Terry "Aislin" Mosher / The Montreal Gazette, Canada, Politicalcartoons.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. (Daryl Cagle / MSNBC.com, Politicalcartoons.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. (Cam Cardow / Ottawa Citizen, Politicalcartoons.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. (Patrick Chappatte / The International Herald Tribune, Politicalcartoons.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. (Olle Johansson / Sweden, Politicalcartoons.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. (Jimmy Margulies / The New Jersey Record, Politicalcartoons.com) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Terry "Aislin" Mosher / The Montreal Gazette, Canada, Politicalcartoons.com
    Above: Slideshow (6) Airport Body Searches
  2. R.J. Matson / St. Louis Post Dispatch, Politicalcartoons.com
    Slideshow (8) Holiday Searches
  3. Joe Heller / The Green Bay Press-Gazette, Politicalcartoons.com
    Slideshow (6) Holiday Travel

Data: Where are the scanners?

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