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Airlines for America Forecasts 45.2 Million Travelers to Fly During 21-Day Winter Holiday Season

Airlines making 99,000 more seats per day available to accommodate growth in holiday travel

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2016 – On the heels of one of the busiest forecasted Thanksgivings for air travel, Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, today announced it is expecting 45.2 million passengers will fly globally on U.S. airlines during the 21-day period from Friday, Dec. 16 through Thursday, Jan. 5, an increase of 3.5 percent over last year. By adding flights and using larger planes, airlines will offer 99,000 additional seats per day across their networks to accommodate the 73,000 more daily passengers expected to travel over the holidays, an increase of 3.9 percent over last year. U.S. airlines will also add extra staff to accommodate the millions of holiday travelers.

“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.

The busiest airports by seats during the travel period are expected to be Atlanta (ATL), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Denver (DEN), Charlotte (CLT), Houston (IAH), New York (JFK), San Francisco (SFO) and Phoenix (PHX).

U.S. passenger airlines rolling out enhanced aircraft, airport offerings

The U.S. airline industry in recent years has undertaken a wide array of efforts to offer passengers customized and innovative options to enhance the travel experience. Holiday travelers heading to airports can look forward to automated security screening lanes, newly renovated lounges, luggage tracking systems and refurbished and new aircraft that include lie-flat seat options and gourmet in-flight meal selections.

“Improving finances have enabled U.S. airlines to reinvest significantly in the customer experience, as we’ve seen firsthand with newly installed automated security screening lanes and the continued deployment of new aircraft,” continued Heimlich.

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