Nearly 24 million passengers will fly during the 2012 Thanksgiving holiday season on planes that are expected to be full, Airlines for America (A4A) forecasts.
A4A says carriers continue to more closely match available seats to demand in an effort to offset what are expected to be record annual fuel costs.
The nation’s airlines also expect the number of passengers traveling from Friday, Nov. 16 through Tuesday, Nov. 27 to increase by about 150,000 people, slightly higher than last year, but 10 percent below the peak travel years of 2006-2007.
A4A says planes are expected to be close to 90 percent full on the busiest traveling days, which are expected to be Sunday, Nov. 25 (2.4 million passengers), Wednesday, Nov. 21 (2.3 million passengers) and Monday, Nov. 26 (2.3 million passengers).
During the busy holiday travel season, A4A urges passengers to check their carrier’s website for flight status and check in electronically before arriving at the airport, register with their carrier for electronic flight updates and allow adequate time for security screening and checking bags.
A4A also provided key financial performance data of the U.S. airlines for the first nine months of the year. Despite a 5.6 percent increase in revenues, airlines have had to contend with 6.2 percent higher costs, reducing profits to a margin of 0.2 percent – or roughly 50 cents per passenger -- for the 10 largest U.S. carriers, A4A said.
A key factor in higher costs has been the price of jet fuel averaging $3.08 per gallon, outpacing the 2011 record high of $3 per gallon, the association said.
“Despite razor-thin profits, airlines have consistently demonstrated when they are even marginally profitable they add jobs," said A4A Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich.
"Improved airline balance sheets have translated into 21 consecutive months of job growth and enabled the carriers to reinvest in equipment, which will help boost efficiency and enhance the customer experience,” Heimlich said.
Heimlich said that air travel remains an excellent value. While domestic airfare has risen about 4 percent year to date, it has not kept pace with inflation, and in real dollars it costs 16 percent less to fly today than it did in 2000.