Airlines Brace for Spike in Holiday Travel

November 25, 2013

Increase in Passengers Traveling From Friday, November 22 Through Tuesday, December 3, 2013

John Heimlich, Vice President and Chief Economist, Airlines for America

(Washington, DC, Monday, November 25, 2013)Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, is delivering its 2013 Thanksgiving Travel Forecast, projecting that 25 million passengers will fly during the 12-day Thanksgiving travel period. Additionally, A4A reported improving year-over-year financial performance for the 10 largest U.S. airlines, with modest profitability helping enable reinvestment in their product and the overall customer experience.

A4A expects the number of passengers traveling from Friday, November 22 through Tuesday, December 3 to increase by 1.5 percent, or 31,000 travelers per day, from 2012, and airlines are adding seats to meet growing demand.

Planes are expected to be more than 85 percent full on the busiest travel days, which are Wednesday, November 27 (2.42 million passengers), Sunday, December 1 (2.56 million passengers) and Monday, December 2 (2.36 million passengers).

To prepare for the busy holiday travel season, passengers are encouraged to review A4A’s traveler tips

  • Passengers should also be aware of programs in place, such as the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) TSA Pre✓™ and the Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Global Entry, which enable enrolled travelers to benefit from expedited screening procedures, enhancing the overall travel experience.
  • Additionally, A4A encourages passengers to check with their carrier on specific in-flight policies, particularly regarding the use of portable electronic devices, as well as check-in and flight status information. 

During the first nine months of 2013, the 10 largest U.S. carriers reported net earnings of $4.5 billion, resulting in a net profit margin of 4 percent – up from $312 million, or 0.3 percent, in 2012. Fuel remained the largest and most volatile cost for airlines, accounting for 35 percent of overall operating expenses.

The nation’s airlines continue to enhance the travel experience from start to finish, despite generating modest net profit margins. Since 2010, airline capital expenditures have more than doubled from $430 million per month to $965 million per month in 2013 – an increase of 125 percent. Advancements include new planes, lie-flat seats, wifi, improved websites and mobile applications with better booking software.

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