Travelers wait in line to check in for a flight at the Delta Air Lines ticket counter at Orlando International Airport during the busy Christmas holiday season on Dec. 28, 2022 in Orlando, Florida.
Paul Hennessy | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Airlines are expecting record demand for travel this Thanksgiving. Executives say they are prepared for the swarm.
The Transportation Security Administration expects to screen a record 30 million passengers between Nov. 17 and Nov. 28. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is expected to be the busiest day of the period, with an estimated 2.9 million passengers taking to the skies.
TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a travel forecast earlier this week: “We are prepared to handle the anticipated volume and are working closely with our airline and airport partners to reduce the risk of travel during this busy season. “We’re working to make sure we’re ready for the season.”
The year-end holidays are an important time for airlines to increase their profits. As consumer travel frenzy returns to past norms after the pandemic, airlines have turned to discounting fares and reducing growth outside of the holiday season and other high-demand periods. Meanwhile, airlines are facing rising fuel and labor costs, putting pressure on profits.
But those coveted travel days around the holidays can still come at a hefty price.
And Thanksgiving will be a test of how the airline industry handles the holidays while dealing with strains such as a prolonged shortage of air traffic controllers.
The holiday period begins nearly a year after a winter storm caused thousands of flights to be canceled around Christmas. Carriers have been preparing for months to prevent the costly mistake from happening again.
Being prepared for the weather is especially important southwest airlinesAirlines canceled 16,700 flights between late last year and early 2024 due to severe winter weather, but other airlines recovered faster. The Dallas-based airline has invested in improved technology to improve aircraft de-icing capabilities and improve crew rescheduling during flight disruptions.
“If a crew member is on a three-day rotation and misses the first day, then the second day, the third… It will probably mean that the day will not come out.” earlier this month in Fort Worth, Texas. “Airlines have to keep moving. When airlines stop moving, bad things happen.”
Preparation is not limited to the Southwest.
“Preparations for winter begin in summer” united airlines Linda Jojo, Chief Customer Officer; “The first meeting may be when the thermometer is at its highest.”
In addition to real-time flight information, United is also upgrading its mobile app’s suite of self-service tools to help customers rebook themselves in the event of a flight disruption. Last month, the airline introduced a new boarding order for economy seats, with window seats, middle seats, and aisle seats, which Jojo says cuts the time it takes to board the plane by about two minutes.
Those extra two minutes “will just help you on that flight, the next flight, and the one after that,” she said.
More flights, better fares (some)
The Federal Aviation Administration expects 49,606 Thanksgiving flights on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, surpassing last year’s holiday peak of 48,192 flights. (So far, the busiest day of 2023 was June 29th, when about 53,000 flights were operated.)
delta airlines The company expects it alone will carry 6.2 million to 6.4 million passengers from Nov. 17 to Nov. 28, compared with 5.7 million last year and 6.25 million in 2019. He said that.
United Airlines expects to carry 5.9 million passengers from Nov. 17 to Nov. 29, an increase of 13% from last year and 5% from 2019. american airlines The company expects to record 7.8 million travelers between Nov. 16 and Nov. 28, up from 7 million last year and about 200,000 more passengers than in 2019. .
As airlines have increased flight frequency in recent months, many fares are now cheaper than last year ahead of Thanksgiving, a relief for many consumers facing rising interest rates and inflation.
The average price for a round-trip domestic ticket for Thanksgiving is $248, up from $271 last year and $276 in 2019, months before the coronavirus pandemic began, according to flight tracking site Hopper. is decreasing.
Airfares overall fell more than 13% in the latest U.S. inflation report, according to the Labor Department.