The winter holidays are a time when many people travel to visit family and friends, while others head to warmer climates to escape the frigid cold.
According to a trade group in the travel industry, holiday travel this year will be busier than last for airlines in the United States, as more affordable fares and the improved economy make traveling by air more accessible.
The group, Airlines for America or A4A has forecasted that more than 41 million passengers will fly on U.S.-based airlines worldwide during the period between December 15 and January 4, which is up close to 3.5% from the previous year.
Airlines will be happy for the boost to the bottom line during this quarter, as operating expenses are significantly higher and have weighed down profits the past few months.
Carriers in the U.S. have been in the headlines the last year due to substantial increases in pay awarded pilots as well as flight attendants.
The increases in pay have been hard for investors to take, and they fear the labor costs of airlines are rising at a quicker rate than are profits.
American Airlines is sitting particularly vulnerable. The air carrier disclosed last month that an error in the system awarded too many pilots vacation time during December.
The airline reached an agreement with the pilot’s union to pay twice the normal hourly rates to cover thousands of flights that otherwise would have had no captain.
American Airlines had upset its investors already earlier in 2017 through awarding a pay increase that came during mid-contract to its pilots and flight attendants surprising many. The projected cost of that pay increase was close to $1 billion over a period of three years.
During the current busy holiday air travel period, airlines will be able to cushion some of the hit they have taken from the higher expenses they have faced.
A4A has said that it expects the travel days that will be the busiest during this year’s holiday travel are December 21, 22 and 26.
The group announced as well that the lightest days for traveling this holiday season will be December 16, 24, 25 and 31.
The trade group has credited current affordable fares as well as expanded options for routes for the increase and said that the increased competition amongst carriers has worked in consumers’ favor as they now have more choices for flights at less expensive prices.