Internet Travel Monitor - Marketing, Research & Tech
June 13, 2018
Plan for Busy Airports, Full Planes This Summer as Record Number of Travelers Take to Skies
Lower fares and a healthy economy continue to drive travel demand ever higher, with the U.S. airline industry expected to notch its fourth straight year of record traffic this summer.
An estimated 246 million passengers will to flock to U.S. airports between June 1 and Aug. 31, about 9 million more than last year, according to a forecast released Wednesday.
“There are a number of very good deals out there. The Atlantic [market] is very competitive. Domestic is very competitive,” said John Heimlich, chief economist at industry-trade group Airlines for America.
Europe and Mexico are shaping up to be the hottest markets for an international getaway, with U.S. airlines increasing the number of seats flown to those regions by 6.2 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively.
The busy season means longer security lines and more full planes, but U.S. airlines are prepared to handle the annual surge in traffic, which this year will total an average of 2.7 million travelers per day between June and August. That’s about 100,000 more passengers per day than a year ago.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that we’re ready, but we’re in constant communication with [the Transportation Security Administration] to watch what’s happening on an airport by airport basis,” said Sharon Pinkerton, Airlines for America’s senior vice president for legislative and regulatory policy.
Pinkerton said the TSA has added more than 1,000 officers since last summer and has about 50 more dog teams available to help speed up inspections.
“We think it’s a great time to fly,” Pinkerton said.
Last year, 22 of the 25 busiest travel days fell in the summer, peaking on June 30. Typically, Thursdays and Fridays will be the most crowded days at the airport, according to Heimlich.
Customers this summer can continue to take advantage of lower fares that have dropped 12.5 percent over the last four years. The average airfare, including fees for bags and other add-ons, was $363 last year, compared to $380 in 2010.
But those prices might not last until next summer, as U.S. airlines grapple with sharply rising fuel costs that are adding billions of dollars to their operating expenses.
Crude oil prices in May are 50 percent higher than they were a year ago, and the rise so far shows no signs of slowing down.
U.S. airline executives have said that fares will have to rise to offset the higher cost, but Heimlich, the Airlines for America economist, said it will take months before consumers begin to feel the impact.
“In the short run, the relationship is never instantaneous, whether it's on the way up or the way down,” he said. “Travel is booked months in advance, schedules are done quarters ahead.”
Even as fuel prices rise, the continued addition of more fuel-efficient planes to airline fleets, as well as competition from discount carriers, should keep fares from overheating.
“It’s difficult in a very competitive marketplace to offset quickly rising expenses,” Heimlich said. “Low-cost carriers and ultra-low-cost carriers are growing the fastest, responding to an American public that’s extremely price sensitive.”
Copyright 2018 The Dallas Morning News Inc. All rights reserved. From https://www.dallasnews.com.
By Conor Shine, Aviation Writer.
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