Tucson International Airport can expect almost 150,000 people to visit in the 11 days surrounding Thanksgiving.

It’s going to be a busy Thanksgiving holiday travel season across Arizona and the nation.

The 2018 Thanksgiving holiday weekend will see more than 1 million Arizona travelers, up 5.2 percent from last year and higher than the expected nationwide increase of 4.8 percent, according to an annual forecast by AAA Arizona based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit.

AAA projects that more than 900,000 Arizonans, 5.4 percent more than last year, will drive at least 50 miles from home this Thanksgiving Day holiday period, which is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 21 to Sunday, Nov. 25.

Based on current prices, Arizona motorists will be paying about 50 cents more per gallon for gas than they paid last Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA.

Meanwhile, nearly 72,000 Arizonans are expected to fly to their holiday destinations, up nearly 5 percent from last year, the non-profit travel club says.

AAA attributes the increased travel to higher wages and more consumer disposable income this year.


Almost 150,000 passengers are expected to go through Tucson International Airport in the 11 days surrounding Thanksgiving this year.

That is about 35 percent more per day than the average.

The busiest holiday travel days at TIA (in order of busiest first) are: Nov. 21, Nov. 25, Nov. 26, Nov. 16 and Nov. 24

The slowest holiday travel days at TIA (slowest first) are: Nov. 22 (Thanksgiving Day), Nov. 23, Nov. 17, Nov. 18 and Nov. 15


TIA has three new ultra-low-fare airlines that weren’t at the airport a year ago: Allegiant Air launches new nonstop flights to Bellingham, Washington-Vancouver and to Provo, Utah, next week; Frontier Airlines (restructured as a low-fare carrier a few years ago) started nonstop flights to Denver this week; and Via Air launched new nonstop service to Austin, Texas, in January.

Ticketing areas for all three airlines are on the east side of the TIA ticketing level and flights depart from Concourse A.


Generally, air travelers should arrive at least 90 minutes ahead of departure times for U.S. domestic flights and two hours before international flights and during heavy travel periods.

To keep costs down, the low-fare airlines that are new to Tucson have some strict check-in policies, TIA notes.

All three of the new low-fare airlines serving TIA open their check-in counters two hours ahead of scheduled flight time and close them before the flight.

Anyone not checked in by the time the counter closes will not be allowed to board — even if they’re still standing in line.

Allegiant and Frontier close their check-in counters 45 minutes ahead of flight time.

Via Air closes its counter 30 minutes ahead of flight time.


Nationwide, travelers can save on car rentals this Thanksgiving holiday season.

At $63, the average daily rate is 10 percent less than last year, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index.

The cost of staying at AAA Three Diamond hotels is down 6 percent from last year, at an average nightly rate of $166.

The average rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels is up 6 percent at an average nightly cost of $124.

Contact senior reporter David Wichner at dwichner@tucson.com or 573-4181. On Twitter: @dwichner. On Facebook: Facebook.com/DailyStarBiz


David joined the Star in 1997, after working as a consumer and business reporter in Phoenix for more than a decade. A graduate of Ohio University, he has covered most business beats focusing on technology, defense and utilities. He has won several awards.