Thanksgiving air travelers can expect crowded planes as a result of the most dramatic capacity cuts since World War II, according to the industry’s trade group.
Airplanes will be full, despite a 4% reduction in passenger volume for the Thanksgiving season compared to last year, according to the Air Transport Association. This is because the industry has slashed capacity by 6.9% year-over-year to improve efficiency in the face of higher fuel costs and slumping demand, said the trade group.
“Our expectation is that there will be fewer passengers flying because of economic measures,” said ATA spokeswoman Elizabeth Merida. “The planes will still be full, even though the airports will be 4% less crowded.”
This year has seen the biggest capacity reduction since 1942, when civilian aircraft were diverted towards the war effort, resulting in a cut of 16.9%, she said.
Since then, the industry has grown its capacity with few interruptions. The most dramatic capacity plunge, aside from the current decline and World War II, occurred immediately after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but it was relatively short-term.
Packed airports and planes but fewer delays
Anne Banas, executive editor at smartertravel.com, said with fewer planes in the air the holiday travel experience may be streamlined.
“Yes, planes will be full, but I don’t think there will be so many delays,” she said. “[It will be] smooth sailing compared to last year, in terms of getting stuck in the airports, because there are so few airplanes compared to last year.”
But she added that the airports during the Thanksgiving holiday are packed with once-a-year fliers who tend to be less “savvy” in negotiating airport security, holding up the line for frequent fliers.