The Air Transport Association of America (ATA) said it expects 41 million passengers to travel over the upcoming winter holidays on U.S. carriers, representing a 2.5 percent year-over-year decline from the 42 million passengers estimated to have flown during the same period in 2008. The three busiest travel days during this holiday period are expected to be Sunday, December 27, Monday, December 28 and Tuesday, December 29, respectively, based on sample data from the 2008 winter holiday period.
“We are continuing to see fewer air travelers over the holidays, a trend that has been apparent throughout 2009,” said ATA President and CEO James C. May. “Capacity reductions will likely mean fuller flights on many days.” May added that the decline continues to be driven by a fragile economy and depressed global demand for travel.
ATA is expecting the federal government, once again, to open up Special Activity Airspace (SAS) on an as-needed basis to help ease congestion. SAS was also made available over the Thanksgiving holiday.
May encouraged passengers to pack light, to check their flight status before leaving for the airport, and to remember to arrive early to allow plenty of time for check-in and security screening.
In addition, ATA encourages passengers to keep in mind the following:
* It is strongly recommended that all passengers review the website of the airline on which they are flying for respective policies, amenities, customer service plans and flight-operation alert notifications.
* Pack any gifts unwrapped, as they may need to be inspected by security. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is also providing additional Helpful Hints for Holiday Travelers online.
* Remember that TSA requires that air travelers follow its 3-1-1 Rule for liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on bags when passing through security checkpoints.
* Passengers should be aware that they could be asked to provide their date of birth and gender when making a reservation, as part of the TSA Secure Flight program. Travelers should expect no change in the travel experience, however, as part of this security initiative.