The airlines can cheer the holidays, or at least the early part of them. Thanksgiving travel is expected to rise 3% to 25.3 million people. The figure is the highest in eight years, which means to a level just before the Great Recession.
Airlines for America counts the Thanksgiving period as 12 days, from November 20 to December 1. The figure is a stretch given that Thanksgiving fails on November 26, but it is the A4A’s survey, along with its rules.
The organization’s researchers say the airline industry is ready for the surge:
Accordingly, airlines are deploying a commensurate amount of additional seating capacity. Daily passenger volumes will range from 1.4 million to 2.7 million, with the busiest travel days in ranked order expected to be Sunday, Nov. 29; Monday, Nov. 30; and Wednesday, Nov. 25. The lightest travel days are Thursday, Nov. 26, and Friday, Nov. 27.
A4A researchers also point out that airlines have posted record profits, and increased travel plus lower fuel costs will increase those:
During the first nine months of 2015, the 10 largest publicly traded U.S. passenger carriers (Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin America) reported pre-tax earnings of $18.8 billion, resulting in a margin of 15.6 percent – up from 7.7 percent in 2014. On a net basis, the group reported $17.9 billion in earnings or 14.8 percent of revenues – up from 5.7 percent in 2014.
The organization claims that some of these profits have been and will be invested in better experiences for customers. Travelers may not notice that on crowded planes traveling on carriers that charge fees for baggage, food and blankets.
Organizations, led by the AAA, often point out that travel by car over the holiday increases as well, particularly as measured by people who drive more than 50 miles. At some point between drivers and fliers, the total number of people who can potentially travel gets exhausted.