WASHINGTON (TVLW) – The Air Transport Association of America (ATA), the industry trade organization representing the leading U.S. airlines, is forecasting that 47 million passengers* will travel globally on U.S. airlines during the winter holiday season (spanning Thursday, Dec. 13 through Wednesday, Jan. 2). This forecast is comparable to last year’s traffic volume.
“Despite signs of slowing in the economy and sky-high energy prices, we expect to see another strong season of holiday air travel – on average, 2.25 million travelers per day,” said ATA President and CEO James C. May.
The four busiest days during the winter travel period are expected to be Wednesday, Jan. 2; Friday, Dec. 21; Thursday, Dec. 27; and Wednesday, Dec. 26, respectively. On these days, ATA estimates that daily traffic will average upward of 2.5 million passengers. The two least busy travel days are anticipated to be Tuesday, Dec. 25 and Monday, Dec. 24, respectively, each with an average of 1.9 million passengers.
ATA is calling for continued cooperation with the federal government and airports to help operations run smoothly over the next 21 days.
“We must all take the necessary steps to improve air service and reduce delays,” said May. “We have proven that when industry and government collaborate, even during challenging weather, we can be successful. It is essential that we build on this momentum even after the holiday.”
Airlines are ramping up for the large number of fliers expected over the next several weeks, and remain committed to providing travelers with up-to-the-minute notifications of delays or changes in their flight schedule by delivering updates to travelers’ wireless devices up to 24 hours in advance. At some airports, this travel information, as well as other important announcements, will be displayed in multiple languages. Several airlines are offering flight-status updates via text messaging, as well.
The airlines have also made enhancements to their terminal and gate areas, modifying layouts to better serve passengers’ needs. For instance, extra self-service kiosks have been added in terminal areas at some airports that can be used both for check-in and rebooking purposes. To help manage high traffic volumes and assist passengers whose plans may change due to weather, ATA member airlines are increasing staffing levels.
In addition, carriers continue to expand the information offered to travelers through their Web sites, putting travel details such as flight status, seat availability and timetables at passengers’ fingertips. Airlines are also testing services such as paperless boarding passes and in-flight e-mail capability.
ATA will be providing operational and weather updates on www.airlines.org throughout the holiday.
As with every holiday travel season, ATA urges customers to be prepared for their trip. To help make the airport experience as smooth as possible, ATA encourages passengers to:
— Pack any gifts unwrapped, as they may need to be inspected by security
— Use automated check-in options, offered via airline Web sites and at airport kiosks, up to 24 hours before departure
— Travel with a current government-issued photo identification
— Allow plenty of time for checking in and for security screening at the airport. If traveling on the busiest days, plan for longer-than-usual security lines
— Medications taken on a regular basis should not be packed in checked bags
— If packing liquids or gels in carry-on baggage, pack them in containers of three ounces or less. Place these in a one-quart zip-top bag that can be put in a security bin separately for screening. Only one zip-top bag is allowed per passenger, so what does not fit must be packed in checked luggage. Note that larger quantities of medications and baby formula can be carried onboard
— Become familiar with the list of TSA permitted and prohibited items
— At the security checkpoint, place metallic objects (e.g., coins, keys, pens, cell phone, watch, camera) in carry-on baggage. Plan to carry small electronics and spare batteries with you. Check DOT restrictions against packing batteries in checked luggage before getting to the airport
— Tag each bag, inside and out, with traveler name and contact information, and remove all destination baggage tags from previous trips
ATA airline members and their affiliates transport more than 90 percent of all U.S. airline passenger and cargo traffic. For additional information about the industry, visit www.airlines.org.
*The total number of revenue passengers boarding aircraft in scheduled service.