Busy Holiday Travel is Good for Airlines, Bad for Travelers
Delays are expected evil for travelers during any holiday season. With more people taking to the skies and the road this December and January, longer waits and more traffic will lengthen travel times and cause more delays and cancellations. As usual, airports will be crowded before Christmas and New Years. Forecasts for continued harsh weather across the nation could worsen these delays. Additionally, airports will be more crowded this year than in past holiday travel seasons (airline tickets sales have increased 3 percent over last year). All these travel factors make long delays and in-terminal chaos an inevitability.
Those looking to avoid the holiday rush are already too late. Peak travel season is on going until January 3rd. Poor weather forecasts throughout the nation during this stretch of time make delays almost impossible to avoid. Inexperienced travelers and families, both of whom slow down the check-in lines and security checkpoint queues, make up a majority of travelers during the holidays.
This year, enhanced TSA security measures are in place to ward off potential threats. These new procedures can further add to the confusion of novice travelers and create even longer, slower moving lines than usual. People who don’t arrive an hour-and-a-half or two hours before their flight may, in some circumstances, not make it to their gate on time. This is not a welcome prospect considering that most flights over the season are booked beyond capacity, so tardy fliers may not be able to find an alternative flight.
Crowds of travelers are a plus for airlines, though the situation is frustrating for fliers. For the airline industry the past two holiday seasons have been lackluster as far as ticket sales and revenue. This holiday season will cap off a profitable year for airlines and signals their return to “business as usual” after a multi-year, industry wide slump.
Some travelers are planning to avoid delays by avoiding airports and choosing other means of transportation. A rise in airfares is another reason that travelers will be opting to hit the road (or the rails) this year. Amtrak is the only major train operator in the US and expects a rise in the number of passengers this holiday season. However, its increase in riders will probably pale in comparison to the growth of bus rider-ship. Compared to last year, the overall passenger numbers of major coach lines like Megabus and Greyhound will grow by 10 percent. Compared to a typical week during the winter season, the number of riders will be up 50 percent during the three-week holiday travel season.
The best solution to holiday travel this month is to expect delays and give yourself more time than usual at the airport or on the roads.