Volume 1, Issue 2 December 20, 2001

Volume 1, Issue 2
December 20, 2001

Seven Million Americans Change Holiday Travel Plans Because of September 11 Tragedies

In both the November and December Omnibus Household Survey, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics asked Americans about their December holiday travel plans. BTS found that fewer Americans plan to travel during the 2001 December holidays than actually traveled last year (Table 1). Prior to September 11, approximately 47 million adults planned to travel this year during the December holidays. This is fewer than the 62 to 66 million American adults who traveled for the December holidays last year. After the September 11 tragedies, the number of adults who plan to travel during the December holidays declined to approximately 39 million. These data are consistent with AAA, who predict that 57.1 million Americans (including children) will be traveling during the December holidays. Both BTS and AAA data show that air travel is down approximately 20 percent from last year at this time.

More Americans plan to travel farther during the December holidays than Thanksgiving (Figure 1). Approximately 14.7 million Americans plan to travel 600 miles or more during the December holidays while only 9 million Americans planned to travel that far for Thanksgiving. Approximately 7.3 million Americans plan to travel 1500 miles or more during the December holidays while fewer than 3 million Americans planned to travel that far for Thanksgiving.

Air Travel More Popular During December Holidays

The number of Americans planning to fly during the December holidays is not quite twice the number who planned to fly for Thanksgiving (9.1 million during the December holidays vs. 5.3 million for Thanksgiving), perhaps because so many Americans plan to travel farther in December (Figure 2). Conversely, fewer Americans plan to use their personal vehicles for their December holiday travel.

Among Americans who before September 11 had planned to travel for the December holidays and still plan to travel, about 1.4 million said they changed their chosen mode of transportation as a result of the events of September 11 (Table 2). Almost 66 percent (of the 1.4 million) switched from commercial air to personal vehicle. Another 8 percent switched from train to personal vehicle. However, almost 7 percent who had planned to travel by personal vehicle switched to commercial air.

Source and Accuracy Statements

Data presented in this issue of OmniStats are from the February 2002 BTS Omnibus Household Survey. Data for the survey were gathered from approximately 1000 randomly selected telephone households. The response rate for the February 2002 survey was 46.2 percent. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus two percent. The data are weighted to allow inferences about the noninstitutionalized population, aged 18 years or older who are currently living in the United States. Because the data come from a sample, they are subject to both sampling and nonsampling error. Sampling error may affect the reliability of an estimate. Nonsampling error can affect both the reliability and accuracy of an estimate and is more difficult to measure. The most general categories of nonsampling error are coverage error, nonresponse error, response error, processing error, and estimation error. For additional information about the survey, please contact Liz Grossman, liz.grossman@bts.gov. Press contact: Dave Smallen, david.smallen@bts.gov.