U.S. Airlines Expected to Fly 38 Million Travelers during the Winter Holiday Season

A4A projects a 3 percent increase in holiday travel, as airlines add flights, seats to accommodate additional demand

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2015Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, today released its 2015-2016 Winter Holiday Air Travel Forecast, projecting 38.1 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines during the 17-day period from Friday, Dec. 18 through Sunday, Jan. 3. That is an increase of more than 3 percent or approximately 73,000 more travelers each of those days from the comparable period a year ago. Last year, 36.9 million customers were estimated to have traveled by air. A4A projects that 12 percent of those traveling will be on international flights.

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To accommodate the increased demand for air travel, airlines are adding a commensurate number of seats to the market, principally through the use of larger aircraft. Planes are projected to be 80 percent to 90 percent full over the winter holiday period, with the busiest travel days expected to be Sunday, Jan.3; Friday, Dec. 18; and Sunday, Dec. 27 respectively. Consistent with historical patterns, 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 range from 1.9 million to 2.4 million during the 17-day period, with the busiest days seeing more than 10 percent more passengers than the average day in 2015.

“U.S. airlines are well positioned to serve the higher demand by adding flights and seats, deploying new and larger aircraft and boosting staffing,” said John Heimlich, Vice President and Chief Economist for Airlines for America. “We attribute the increase to the improving economy and the fact that airfare remains affordable, having declined 4.3 percent through the first nine months of the year.”

As More People Fly, A4A Advocates for Transformational ATC Reform to Accommodate Growth
During peak travel periods, the need for a reformed Air Traffic Control (ATC) system, which would reduce delays and more efficiently accommodate travelers, is even more apparent.

“Airlines have been reinvesting in their product to the tune of $1.3 billion per month to transform the travel experience for our customers, and it is time that the government transforms the Air Traffic Control system, enabling more planes to fly more efficiently and reduce air traffic control delays,” said Sharon Pinkerton, A4A Senior Vice President of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs. “The U.S. airline industry and the more than 2 million customers we fly every day need a better alternative to today’s outdated, overburdened system.”

As part of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, A4A is advocating that the Air Traffic Organization move to a not-for-profit, self-funded commercial organization governed by a board representing all stakeholders. This would help guarantee long-term financial stability that benefits all travelers and provide for continued upgrades of ATC infrastructure and technology.


Airlines for America (A4A) members are Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, FedEx, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and UPS. Air Canada is an associate member.

A4A advocates on behalf of the leading U.S. airlines, both passenger and cargo carriers. A4A works collaboratively with industry stakeholders, federal agencies, the Administration, Congress, labor and other groups to improve aviation for the traveling and shipping public.

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