As classes resume today, many students return to Ann Arbor from their Thanksgiving breaks with mixed feelings about holiday traveling that was largely uneventful but distinctly different than before.

Paul Wong
Travelers wait to go through security at Memphis International Airport Saturday. A security breach temporarily closed the airport.<br><br>AP PHOTO

“It felt like everyone was so edgy. On the plane, people were really tense. I remember when we landed, people were clapping,” said LSA sophomore Erin Finch, who was traveling to California.

“Some people were more talkative on the plane, I guess, to relieve the tension,” added Finch.

“I think it was pretty smooth. It went as I”d planned,” said second-year Rackham student Girish Mudgal, who flew to St. Louis to visit friends. “The check lines at the airport were long but I didn”t have any other trouble.”

Long lines and tense travelers weren”t the only new elements to this year”s Thanksgiving traveling. Soldiers with M-16 rifles made some travelers nervous, while making others feel more safe.

“We are here to give the public extra security and more confidence. (Thanksgiving weekend days) were busy but there was nothing we couldn”t handle,” said National Guard Staff Sgt. Isaiah Hicks, who was patrolling the John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Calif.

Less then 30 minutes after Hicks said this, officials completely shut down the airport and forced everyone to evacuate after an unidentified woman sneaked pass the security checkpoint.

“I thought it was exciting and a little scary,” said Dara Chapman, a University Music senior, one of the thousands of travelers forced to exit the airport. Chapman, whose flight was initially delayed after a different plane had blown two tires upon landing, delayed again due to the airport evacuation and then a third time after a small mechanical failure, finally arrived in Detroit more than 26 hours after she had left her home in California.

Despite all the hassle, Chapman said she still plans to fly home for the winter break.

Other college students throughout the nation said that planes are still the most convenient means of traveling.

Northeastern University student Myra Rodriguez said she had flown three days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and found traveling by plane to be “not much of a hassle.”

“Tight security wasn”t that big of a deal. They asked me for my identification an extra time and there are always going to be lines at airports,” said Jeeho Lee, a student at Columbia University.

More travelers were expected to drive to their holiday destination, while a decline in air travel was predicted because of the weak economy and fear of flying since the airborne attacks. Overall, the number of Americans expected to travel over the weekend was expected to be down 6 percent since last year.

Aviation consultant Michael Boyd of The Boyd Group in Colorado had predicted a 25 percent drop in air travel for the holiday weekend.

“This will be a bellwether of what consumers think,” he said, adding numbers should be known by Wednesday. “If it”s down less than 20 percent, what we have is a rebounding economy for air travel.”

Though the airports were expected to experience their busiest day since Sept. 11, the numbers are still not back to normal, said Department of Aviation spokeswoman Monique Bond.

“A lot of people under the circumstances are choosing to travel one holiday over another,” she said of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Amtrak reported in increase in train travel, but did not provide figures. The company added 75,000 seats, more than last year”s Thanksgiving holiday period, when 567,000 people rode on the passenger rail service during a 7-day period.

Greyhound Bus Lines hoped that based on advance purchases, it would post an increase over the 800,000 riders it carried in a 6-day holiday period last year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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