Holiday-related travel was clogging L.A.-area freeways and filling Los International Airport on Wednesday as travelers made their way to their Thanksgiving destinations.


The Automobile Club of Southern California said more than 3 million Southern Californians will be traveling during the long holiday weekend and that 81 percent were expected to drive, undeterred by high gas prices.


The average price for regular self-serve unleaded gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area fell 7.9 cents to $2.504 from $2.583 one week ago, said AAA on Wednesday. The price was $2.865 per gallon one month ago and $2.296 one year prior.


Freeway congestion was expected to be especially heavy on the Golden State (5) Freeway near the "Grapevine" area north of Santa Clarita and on the San Diego (405) Freeway near LAX. By late afternoon on Wednesday, the California Department of Transportation had not issued any traffic restrictions on any of the major freeways in the L.A. area.


Airport officials estimated that 1.8 million passengers are expected to come through LAX during the 10-day holiday period Nov. 18 through Nov. 28. The busiest travel days are expected to be Wednesday and Sunday, Nov. 27. Passenger volumes are flat year-over-year due to higher air fares and airlines trimming flight schedules related to fuel costs.


A scheduled protest at LAX by a union representing 8,000 Los Angeles city employees could cause potential travel delays on Sunday. Leaders of the Engineers and Architects Association have called on members to attend the demonstration beginning at 4 p.m. The union also threatened to strike unless it receives the same lucrative contract that Department of Water and Power workers won from the city. That deal, approved in September, gave most DWP workers salary increases of up to 31 percent.


Passengers departing LAX during daily peak travel periods have been advised to be in airline ticketing lobbies two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights. Most flights were expected to be full.


Officials said that improvements have been made at LAX to cut down on the number of delays and lighten the congestion:

- Eight more passenger screening lanes have been added, bringing the total number at LAX to 60, the most of any U.S. airport.
- Travelers from the San Fernando Valley can take advantage of the new Van Nuys FlyAway shuttle service, which offers parking and roundtrip bus service 24 hours a day from the Valley to LAX for $6.
- Motorists picking up passengers can park in the LAX Cell Phone Lot without charge and wait to be called on their mobile phones before driving to the arrival level.


Travel delays at many of the nation's airports were in the normal range of 15 minutes or less, the Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday on its Web site. Airports experiencing more significant weather-related delays included Chicago O'Hare International, William B. Hartsfield International, in Atlanta, Newark International and LaGuardia Airport, in New York.

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