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Holiday travel goes on

Students took to the roads and skies for the Thanksgiving holiday despite expected car traffic and air travel delays.

The Automobile Club of Southern California estimated that 4.2 million Californians traveled over the holiday weekend and 87 percent of them chose to go in their cars.

James Meetze, a Mills graduate student, was one of those California drivers, but will not be in the future.

“I’m never going down South again,” Meetze said. He said he had to take a detour on his return to Oakland from San Diego because the line of cars going up from the Western side of the I-5 grapevine was stagnant. Meetze said he went through Lancaster and Bakersfield on a trip that ultimately took twelve hours.

UC Berkeley junior Talia D’Abramo said traffic on Thanksgiving morning was bad, but Sunday’s return traffic was lighter than she had expected. D’Abramo traveled from Berkeley to Fresno and encountered no problems once she was off the 580. She said that, though there was not much traffic going Northwest on Sunday, the Southbound lanes of the 5 and 580 freeways were barely moving on that Sunday evening.

Senior Denise Smith said her experience putting her daughter on a plane in the Southwest Terminal at the Oakland Airport was like fighting summer crowds at Disneyland.

“I travel a lot, from coast to coast, and I go to L.A. every three weeks, but this was the worst,” Smith said. “We spent an hour in line to check in. It was like Space Mountain on the worst day but times twelve.”

Smith also said Southwest made no accommodations for passengers who thought they had left extra time to check in, but would probably miss their flights. “There was a lady in line crying ‘I’m going to miss my flight,'” Smith said.

Smith’s experience was not singular, but was one of the more extreme examples of a travel delay. According to online travel Web site, the amount of time that people waited to get to flight gates varied from as low as 10 minutes in Minneapolis to 95 minutes in New York.

A United Airlines spokesperson said that 89.2 percent of their seats were filled over the holiday weekend.

One student speculated that planes were full because of reduced capacity. Senior Tamara Opalinski said a friend’s flight from Oakland to Newark was cancelled because there were too few passengers. Opalinski’s friend had to take a different flight almost ten hours after she was supposed to fly.

The complication at Oakland International Airport also could have been caused by the evacuation of one of Oakland’s terminals, which was ordered because of a security lapse at the Seattle-Tacoma airport.

According to MSNBC, Sea-Tac recalled one plane in flight and delayed many others when a National Guardsman discovered that a metal detector at the airport had been in use while unplugged. A United Airlines flight that took off with passengers who had passed through the unplugged detector landed at Oakland International, but only after the terminal had been emptied for safety.