Thanksgiving Air Travel Expected to Jump 3 Percent Over Last Year

(Los Angeles Times/TNS) -

Expect U.S. airports to be even more crowded this Thanksgiving season.

The number of Americans traveling for Thanksgiving is expected to rise to 25.3 million, a 3 percent increase over the same period last year, according to a projection from Airlines for America, the trade group for the nation’s airline industry.

Airline representatives attribute the increase partly to lower fares.

The projection means that an additional 65,000 passengers per day could be crowding the nation’s airports from Nov. 20 to Dec. 1.

The busiest travel days will be Sunday, Nov. 29; Monday, Nov. 30; and Wednesday, Nov. 25, in that order, the trade group said.

“As competition continues to boost schedules and drive down airfares in 2015, customers are seeing more opportunities to fly during the holiday season,” said John Heimlich, chief economist for the group.

Thanks to a 36 percent drop in fuel costs over the last year, airlines have been able to keep fares from rising and, in some cases, cut ticket prices slightly.

The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Transportation showed that fares for the first three months of the year rose 1.7 percent, compared with the same period last year.

But a forecast by the Boston flight-research site Hopper.com predicted that the average domestic airfare for the September–November period would be $248, or 3.6 percent cheaper than in fall 2014 and 8.1 percent cheaper than in the same three months of 2013.