With Christmas just a couple of weeks away, airlines are now preparing for what they predict will be the busiest holiday travel period since the pandemic.
While the 2022 Thanksgiving travel season has become the busiest since the pandemic, airlines expect the holiday and New Year’s holidays will see even more people taking to the skies. United Airlines, for example, expects 8.3 million people will fly with the airline, an increase of 1.9 million more travelers than in 2021. The Chicago-based carrier also expects January 2 to be the its busiest travel day, with over 480,000 passengers.
Airlines for America, the trade group representing most of the major US carriers, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United, said the airlines have made significant improvements to their operations since suffering operational reliability issues at the time. started this year after changing their hours and hiring more staff. Since the peak of the pandemic, Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president of policy at A4A, said the airlines have collectively hired an additional 106,000 people and are now adding 4,600 employees a month.
Want more specific airline news? Sign up for TPG’s free bi-weekly Aviation newsletter.
Pinkerton also said airlines now have the operational capacity to handle increased travel demand, following a summer characterized by endless queues at airports and a growing number of flight delays and cancellations.
“2022 has been a busy and difficult year,” Pinkerton said. “The operating environment was challenging, but we have moved on since September. I believe we are now poised for success and more importantly growth, now that we have stabilized the operation.”
Sign up for our daily newsletter
Thanksgiving was a far cry from the chaotic summer travel season, with a much smoother travel time for airlines, with minimal disruption. While severe weather caused some flight delays in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest, only a small number of flights were cancelled.
Pinkerton added that October, November and December are also shaping up to have the lowest cancellation rates of the entire year. And in December, cancellation rates ranged from 0.2% to 1.2%, despite bad weather, according to Pinkerton. Summer, on the other hand, had an average cancellation rate of about 2.2% from Memorial Day to Sept. 1.
A4A officials also offered some tips ahead of the holiday travel season, like allowing plenty of time to get to the airport and clear security. And for the holidays, A4A suggests travelers wrap gifts after they reach their destination.
Despite the challenges airlines faced in 2022, Pinkerton said he has a generally rosy outlook for 2023.
“We are heading into 2023 with a renewed sense of optimism, focusing on maintaining our operational reliability, with an eye to growth,” Pinkerton said. “The good news is that the future is very promising because people want to travel.”
Traveling during the holiday season? See these for more travel tips: