Airlines for America, the primary trade group representing U.S. airlines, is expecting a record rise in air travelers this spring—4% compared to last year. That nets out to roughly 145 million travelers through April 30, or 2.4 million travelers per day.
In other words, a lot of people.
For travelers, this has significant implications. Airlines plan to add 110,000 seats per day to accommodate this jump in traffic, but don’t be surprised if flights are full. This matters not just in terms of airfares (which the AP reports might begin nudging up as jet fuel prices rise) but also on matters of convenience like seat selection.
With packed planes, travelers may feel compelled to pay a premium for the seats they want, whether it’s a specific location on the plane or to sit with family or traveling companions. This, of course, adds to the cost and hassle of the flight.
An increase in travelers also means crowded airports. It may be worth giving yourself a few extra minutes at the airport, or at least keeping an ear out for stories of long waits at TSA checkpoints. The TSA has made meaningful changes to its airport operations, namely hiring more screeners, after long waits crippled airports last year. Still, peak travel times such as holidays and school vacations might be compounded by the extra traffic.
This growth in air travel is part of a larger trend. According to the DOT, a record 823 million passengers took to the skies last year, the first time that number topped 800 million. It’s possible 2017 could break that record.
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