In anticipation of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, the airline industry is gearing up for what is expected to be a record-breaking travel season. With the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) projecting to screen an unprecedented 30 million passengers between November 17th and 28th, airlines are preparing to handle the increased volume of travelers. The busiest day is anticipated to be the Sunday following Thanksgiving, with around 2.9 million passengers flying.
This surge in air travel comes as a relief to many consumers who have been grappling with prolonged inflation and higher interest rates. Airlines, facing their own challenges of rising fuel and labor costs, are offering more affordable fares compared to last year. Thanksgiving airfares are averaging $248 for domestic round trips, a decrease from previous years, according to flight-tracking site Hopper.
The holiday season is a critical time for airlines to generate revenue, with the year-end holidays often commanding higher fares. As such, this Thanksgiving is seen as a crucial test for the aviation industry, assessing their preparedness in handling holiday demands amidst ongoing challenges such as a shortage of air traffic controllers.
Reflecting on the disruptions caused by a severe winter storm last year, airlines like Southwest have invested in improving weather readiness, including enhancing aircraft de-icing capabilities and updating technology for better crew scheduling during flight disruptions. Similarly, United Airlines has been focusing on winter preparedness since summer and upgrading self-service tools in its mobile app to facilitate customer rebooking during flight interruptions.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expects the number of flights to peak at 49,606 on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, an increase from last year. Major carriers like Delta Air Lines, United, and American Airlines are all anticipating a significant uptick in passenger numbers compared to both last year and pre-pandemic levels. As the aviation industry braces for a bustling holiday season, all eyes are on the airlines’ readiness to smoothly handle the influx of travelers and maintain operational efficiency.