WASHINGTON – Despite record numbers of air travelers, regional airports say that the Northwest Airlines pilots’ strike should have little impact on air travel over the holiday weekend.
Most passengers knew the strike was approaching and made other arrangements, said Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokeswoman Tara Hamilton.
Although Northwest has 20 flights a day out of Dulles International Airport and nine out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, those facilities are “not expecting a major impact because of the Northwest strike,” said Hamilton.
Tell that to Elana Muzile of Randallstown, whose sister, Rheyna was supposed to come visit from Minneapolis this Labor Day weekend.
“She bought the ticket several months ago, before there was any indication of a strike,” said Muzile. “Now, her only option, a six-hour drive to Chicago to catch another flight, is almost impossible.”
But while other airlines are accepting Northwest Airlines tickets during the strike, Northwest ticket-holders may find a hard time finding open seats on other carriers this weekend, said Sharon Perry, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Aviation Administration.
She said Baltimore-Washington International Airport expects more than 200,000 passengers over the holiday weekend, a 10 percent increase in passengers from last Labor Day.
Northwest typically flies about 1,500 passengers a day out of BWI, only about 4 percent of the airport’s daily passenger total, said BWI spokeswoman Marilyn Corbett. She said most of them planned ahead and made alternate plans.
Although many Maryland residents will fly this weekend, 91 percent of travelers will drive to their Labor Day destinations, said Lon Anderson, a spokesman for the American Automobile Association of Potomac.
Nearly 417,000 Marylanders will take to the roads this weekend, making it a Labor Day record, according to AAA. Anderson attributed the heavy highway travel to low gas prices.
Maryland State Police will increase patrols to handle the expected rush of vacationers taking to the road this weekend.
“We expect traffic to be heavy on Friday and we have extra personnel working for the holiday to provide assistance,” said state police Sgt. Ron Dixon.
While others are on the road, the Muziles will be left to spend their holidays contemplating the strike — in separate cities.
“It is very upsetting,” said Elana Muzile. “I am sure it is important to the pilots but it is putting a lot of people through a lot of trouble.”