ATA Predicts 4 Percent Decline for Thanksgiving

Despite deep discounting over the past several months, a 4 percent year-over-year decrease in the number of passengers traveling on U.S. airlines during the 2009 Thanksgiving holiday season— defined as Friday, November 20 through Tuesday, December 1— is being predicted by the Air Transport Association of America (ATA).

"It is increasingly apparent that the economic head winds facing the airlines and their customers are anything but behind us," aid ATA President and CEO James C. May. "The recent announcement that U.S. unemployment surpassed 10 percent highlights one of the key factors impacting consumer buying decisions."

As typical with the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, flights are likely to be quite full, driven this year by the decrease in available seats and deep discounting, rather than by robust demand.

Carriers have cut back their schedules in response to economic pressures, with 2009 capacity reductions the deepest since 1942. In addition, recently released government data show that average domestic airfares in the second quarter of 2009 fell to their lowest level since 1998, dropping 13 percent from the second quarter of 2008 – the largest year-to-year decline on record.

Based on sample data from the Thanksgiving 2008 period, the four busiest travel days surrounding Thanksgiving Day this year are expected to be Monday, November 30, Sunday, November 29, Friday, November 20 and Wednesday, November 25, respectively.

ATA is expecting the federal government once again to open up Special Activity Airspace to help ease congestion.

May encouraged passengers to pack light, to check their flight status before leaving for the airport, and to remember to arrive early.

"During this busy travel period especially, passengers should plan ahead and provide plenty of time for airport check-in and security screening," said May.

In addition, ATA encourages passengers to consult its resource page for recommended travel tips. In particular, passengers are encouraged to keep in mind the following:

*    All passengers are strongly encouraged to review the website of the airline on which they are flying for respective policies, amenities, customer service plans and flight-operation alert notifications.

*    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 will 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 a result of this security initiative.