WASHINGTON, D.C. – Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, formerly known as the Air Transport Association, today estimated that the upcoming holiday travel period will see fewer fliers than a year ago due to lingering economic concerns; however, flights are still expected to be full, as airlines have adjusted capacity in response to rising cost pressures.
In total, A4A expects about 43.3 million air travelers to fly on U.S. carriers’ domestic and international routes during a 21-day period  – a 1 percent drop from the same period last year – or about 20,000 fewer travelers per day, on average.
Daily passenger volumes are expected to range from 1.6 million to 2.3 million during the holiday. The busiest days are expected to be between Dec. 21-23, Dec. 26-30 and Jan. 2 and 3, based on sample data from the 2009 and 2010 winter holiday periods. On the busiest days, average load factors may top 85 percent.
“This holiday season will see a traffic decrease consistent with the slowdown reported in recent months,” said A4A Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich. “Passengers still should expect to see full flights as many airlines have reduced capacity to match the decline in travel and increased cost of operations. Capacity reduction is one of the steps the industry is taking to preserve profitability.”
Airline and Passenger Preparedness
During the busy holiday travel season, passengers are encouraged to check their flight status at their air carrier’s website before leaving for the airport, and to remember to arrive early to allow plenty of time for check-in and security screening. In addition, A4A encourages passengers to consult its resource page for recommended travel tips.
“America’s airlines are committed to getting customers to their destinations safely and have plans in place to minimize delay and inconvenience during winter weather challenges,” said A4A Senior Vice President for Safety, Security and Operations Tom Hendricks. “Airlines continue to invest significant resources in new processes, procedures and technologies in order to strengthen communication with customers, airports and the air traffic control system.”
In particular, passengers are encouraged to keep in mind the following:
It is strongly recommended that all passengers review the website of the airline on which they are flying for respective policies, amenities, customer-service plans and flight-operation alert notifications.
Passengers should contact their airline or booking source and confirm that their full name, date of birth, gender and Redress number (if applicable) are included as part of their reservation as required by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Secure Flight program.
Download the MyTSA mobile application for airport status and screening-checkpoint wait times, information on the 3-1-1 Rule for liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on bags, as well as the handling of food/gifts.
Pack any gifts unwrapped, as they may need to be inspected by security. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is also providing additional Helpful Hints for Holiday Travelers online.
A4A members are working closely with the government and airport partners to prepare for any potential weather disruptions. A4A is expecting the FAA, once again, to open up Department of Defense (DoD) Special Activity Airspace (SAA) on an as-needed basis to help ease congestion, especially as we face winter weather. This airspace is not regularly available to commercial flights. DoD also made SAA available over the Thanksgiving holiday.