(Updates with pedestrian killed by train in paragraph 13)
By David Ingram
NEW YORK Nov 23 U.S. airports trotted out
friendly companion dogs to calm jittery travelers and offered
perks including free parking on Wednesday as throngs of people
rushed toward their Thanksgiving holiday celebrations.
Up to 2.8 million people per day, about 600,000 more than
average, are expected to fly in the United States over the
coming six days, making it a busy period for travel, according
to the trade group Airlines for America.
Airports will not be the only crowded places as some 48.7
million people, the most since 2007, are expected to travel 50
miles (80 km) or farther for the holiday, according to motor
club AAA. It said the 1.9 percent increase from last year's
level reflected an improving economy and low gasoline prices.
Some travelers early on Wednesday reported smooth
"I got there at 7:10 and there was no line to get past
security," said Grant Grindler, 24, of his arrival at Washington
Dulles International Airport for his flight to Chicago, where he
planned to drive to Wisconsin. Ticketing at Dulles was also "a
breeze", he said.
To relieve passengers' anxiety, airports in cities including
Chicago and Memphis, Tennessee, have deployed therapy dogs to
wander around terminals with their owners to help ease stress
At Chicago's O'Hare and Midway International Airports, the
dogs in service this week include a Jack Russell Terrier mix and
a German Shepherd mix provided by a local charitable group,
Canine Therapy Corps.
"Just the entertainment of a dog distracting your attention
for a least a little while helps to improve your experience at
the airport," said Ann Davidson, the group's operations manager.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport said it was giving
up to seven days of free parking to the first 1,000 cars that
entered through specially marked lanes starting on Wednesday
In New York, reduced parking rates were available for a
limited time at John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark
Weather could complicate travel in several regions. A winter
mix of precipitation was expected to hit the Upper Mississippi
Valley and the Great Lakes region on Wednesday, the National
Weather Service said. Snow and patches of freezing rain could
spread into the Northeast on Wednesday night into Thursday, but
snow and ice accumulations would likely be light, the service
Amtrak said it had added extra trains and seats to
accommodate rail passengers along some of its busiest lines,
including along the East Coast, in southern California and the
Amtrak service was delayed during the holiday rush on
Wednesday afternoon for a short time between Wilmington,
Delaware, and Newark, New Jersey, after a pedestrian was struck
and killed by a train, local media and state police said.
(Reporting by David Ingram in New York; Additional reporting by
Renita Young and Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by
Cynthia Osterman and Richard Chang)