It’s a great time to fly for customers as fares remain affordable, on-time performance and baggage delivery are strong, and airlines are adding seats to accommodate a busy travel season, says Airlines for America (A4A).
A4A's 2013 Thanksgiving Travel Forecast projects that 25 million passengers will fly during the 12-day Thanksgiving travel period. Additionally, A4A reports 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 said it expects the number of passengers traveling from Friday, Nov. 22 through Tuesday, Dec. 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, Nov. 27 (2.42 million passengers), Sunday, Dec.1 (2.56 million passengers) and Monday, Dec. 2 (2.36 million passengers).
“The good news for customers is that air travel costs less in real dollars today than in 2000, airlines are delivering strong on-time and baggage performance,” said John Heimlich, A4A Vice President and Chief Economist. “More seats are returning to the marketplace to accommodate growing demand as carriers are increasing the number of available seats for Thanksgiving travel by roughly 2 percent.”
A4A urges passengers to review A4A’s traveler tips. Passengers should also be aware of programs in place, such as the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) TSA PreCheck and the Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Global Entry, which enable enrolled travelers to benefit from expedited screening procedures. A4A also 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.
A4A also reports that 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, A4A said. 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, Wi-Fi, improved websites and mobile applications with better booking software.
“When airlines are profitable, customers, employees and the economy win because airlines are better able to invest in the business and improve the product and travel experience,” said Heimlich. “This further demonstrates the need for a National Airline Policy, which will enable carriers to achieve sustained profitability and continue reinvesting in their product to make air travel more enjoyable for customers.”
A4A notes it has proposed a National Airline Policy that includes key pillars to enhance the customer experience by reducing delays and rationalizing the federal tax burden, which drives up the cost of airfare.