By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As Americans hit the road for travel in record numbers since the start of the pandemic, the question now is if the travel industry is ready for the surge.

The volume is expected to near pre-pandemic levels, according to AAA. It’ll be the second-highest year for Independence Day travel, trailing behind 2019 numbers. However, some airlines have canceled hundreds of flights in a matter of days and there have been longer waiting times at airports.

Experts said the travel industry was caught off guard with the travel surge.

“The airlines were caught with their pants down. They scheduled too many flights, and they didn’t have enough people ready to operate the flights, operate the airport and the companies that they work with were short too,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst.

American Airlines, the nation’s biggest carrier, was forced to cancel hundreds of flights and the trend could continue through mid-July.

People are still eager to get out after being inside for more than a year.

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“My daughter just finished her school, which she did virtually for the whole year and everybody’s like we just want to leave the house,” said Oyedokun, traveler.

Cruise ships are trying to catch this travel wave too. At the port of Baltimore, they’re waiting for the moment when passengers will be back on board.

“Travel is in full swing this summer, as Americans eagerly pursue travel opportunities they’ve deferred for the last year-and-a-half,” Ali said. “We saw strong demand for travel around Memorial Day and the unofficial kick-off of summer. All indications now point to a busy Independence Day to follow.”

AAA predicts 47 million Americans will travel for the Fourth of July. That’s up 40 percent from 2020. Most travelers will drive despite the increase in gas prices.

Locally, 1,036,400 Marylanders are expected to travel for Independence Day with 960,000 on the roads, 67,400 by air, and 9,000 by bus, train or cruise.

“Here in Maryland, this is the highest travel volume we’ve seen tor the holiday since 2001. So people are eager to travel, we’re seeing that increased demand and pent-up demand,” said Ragina C. Ali, Public and Government Affairs Manager at AAA Mid-Atlantic.

According to AAA, top destinations are Orlando, Florida and Anaheim, California — presumably for Disney attractions, followed by Denver, CO, Las Vegas, NV and Seattle, WA.

“In Maryland, the Great American Road Trip is the mode of choice for nearly 93 percent of travelers, which is also the highest auto travel volume on record for the state besting the previous 2019 travel record by nearly 7 percent,” said Ali.

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According to AAA, top destinations are Orlando, Florida and Anaheim, California — presumably for Disney attractions, followed by Denver, CO, Las Vegas, NV and Seattle, WA.

Ava-joye Burnett