Holiday Travel Down, Yet Will Still Suck


How is that possible? Well, if the airlines cut down the number of planes to make sure the ones they’re flying are stuffed to the gills, anything’s possible! The Air Transport Association ( is predicting 9 per cent fewer flyers will take to the skies this holiday season on U.S. airlines compared to last, but that doesn’t necessarily mean extra elbowroom.

Since U.S. carriers cut capacity earlier this year thanks to the increase in fuel prices, fewer routes mean fuller seats during the popular holiday travel season. “Planes will be at or near capacity over the [21-day] holiday period,” says ATA President and CEO James C. May.

ATA expects some two million travellers per day to fly over the three-week holiday period. The busiest days should be Dec. 19 and Dec. 27. The industry trade group says flights are expected to be 90 per cent full on those two peak days.

What’s the outlook for next year? ATA Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich expects more capacity cuts. “Schedule cuts prompted by high fuel prices in 2008 will deepen in 2009,” he asserts. The new reductions will be because of the economy.

If there’s a shade of a silver lining to these numbers it’s this: reports discount airfare sales are still comparatively plentiful. Airlines are anxious to put passengers in seats, and they’ll cut you a deal to fill them. Evidence: the number of holiday discount airfare sales (including business class) that have sprung up over the past several weeks.