“As we saw over Thanksgiving, U.S. airlines are well positioned to handle the increase in passengers expected this holiday season,” said Airlines for America Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich. “Airlines’ concerted and well-coordinated efforts over Thanksgiving helped ensure the traditional holiday rush was as smooth as could be for fliers, resulting in shorter security wait times and noticeable higher on-time performance rates. We expect to see much of the same this winter holiday travel season.”
For the 12-day Thanksgiving travel period, airlines posted a 99.4 percent flight completion factor and an on-time arrival rate of 84.5 percent.
“An improving economy and reduced airfares remain the driving force behind the growth seen in air travel,” continued Heimlich.
A4A expects the busiest travel days of the 21-day period to be Thursday, Dec. 22 and Friday, Dec. 23, while the lightest travel days are expected to be Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Passenger volumes are expected to vary widely, ranging from as low as 1.8 million on the lightest days to 2.4 million on the busiest. On average, U.S. airlines carry approximately 2.2 million passengers per day throughout the year.
Heimlich noted that 88 percent of passengers traveling in U.S. domestic markets in 2016 could choose among carriers other than American, Delta and United (and their merged predecessors), up sharply from just 65 percent in 2000. And recently released government data shows that airline investments in equipment, systems and staffing continue to pay off for travelers, who are benefitting from better service when they take to the skies.
“In recent months, notwithstanding the impact of severe weather events such as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, flight completion and on-time arrival rates remained high, while reports of mishandled baggage and involuntary denied boardings plunged to their lowest ever recorded. These recent developments bode well for the winter holiday flyer,” said Heimlich.
A4A expects the busiest travel days of the 21-day period to be Thursday, Dec. 21, Friday, Dec. 22 and Tuesday, Dec. 26, while the lightest travel days are expected to be Saturday, Dec. 16, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. Passenger volumes are expected to vary widely, ranging from just below 2 million on the lightest days to more than 2.7 million on the busiest. In 2016, U.S. airlines carried an average of 2.25 million passengers per day.
Airlines continue to work collaboratively with TSA and CBP after successful Thanksgiving travel period
Over the busy Thanksgiving air travel period, U.S. airlines worked collaboratively with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to ensure the safety and security of millions of passengers and crew members who were screened at TSA checkpoints before continuing onto their departing flights. According to the TSA, 98.1 percent of all passengers waited less than 20 minutes in a checkpoint line and 99.2 percent of passengers who were in a TSA Pre✓® lane waited less than 10 minutes in a checkpoint line.
“Safety is always the airlines’ first priority,” said Billy Nolen, A4A Senior Vice President, Safety, Security and Operations. “The U.S. airlines are committed to working with the Transportation Security Administration to ensure that every passenger has an efficient screening experience, while maintaining the highest standard of security throughout the upcoming holiday travel season.”