Planes are Full but Holiday Air Traffic Expected to Decrease

Despite planes flying close to capacity, The Wall Street Journal reports that the airline industry expects to see a %2 drop in passenger traffic over the holidays compared to 2010.

The decline is mostly due to a combination of higher fares, a stagnant economy and an airline industry that has struggled to remain profitable and would rather scale back and fly less planes with more passengers.

For the 12 days surrounding the holiday, the ATA forecasts about 440,000, or 2%, fewer people will fly than last year’s 23.6 million holiday travelers. But airplanes will still be packed, the trade association says, because airlines are selling fewer seats to save money.

“While demand is down from last year and remains well below the 2006 peak, passengers still should expect full flights,” John Heimlich, ATA’s chief economist, said in a written statement.

The ATA predicts Friday, Nov. 18; Sunday, Nov. 27; and Monday, Nov. 28 will be the busiest travel days, with more than 85% of planes full.

As the Wall Street Journal points out, airlines will still welcome the overall traffic increase that the holiday season brings even if it is short of last year’s total. Most airlines have decided to cut capacity in order to keep costs down and avoid major losses associated with higher fuel costs. By doing so, demand remains high allowing airlines a better chance to be profitable despite potential decreases in revenue.

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