U.S. airlines expect millions of passengers to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday. United Airlines (UAL) just released estimates that it will fly more than 4.5 million passengers between Nov. 19 and 30.
“We won’t be perfect and winter weather always impacts some flights, but the bottom line is that our team is ready and eager to welcome you back this holiday season and beyond,” United CEO Scott Kirby recently said in a letter to customers.
United predicts Sunday, Nov. 28 will be its busiest travel day since before the COVID-19 pandemic decimated the industry. “We’re expecting around 450,000 customers,” the airline stated in a press release.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported 2.15 million passengers passed through airport security on Sunday, Nov. 14. On that same day in 2019, the number was 2.39 million.
Airline analysts have predicted a strong holiday season for the carriers and the latest weekly fare tracker from Cowen airline analyst Helane Becker shows fares going up. Cowen tracks 278 domestic routes across different levels of service on United, Delta Air Lines (DAL) and American Airlines (AAL). Published fares were up 26.1% year-over-year and up 28.1% week-over-week hitting $378 as of the period ending Nov. 8.
‘People want to get out’
United will add 700 domestic flights the week of Thanksgiving, estimating it will fly 87% of its domestic schedule in November.
Legacy carriers recently got a boost from new CDC guidelines which allow fully vaccinated non-citizens to travel to the United States. American Airlines President Robert Isom told Yahoo Finance the carrier spent much of the pandemic slowdown preparing for the return of international travelers and holiday passenger traffic.
“We know that people want to get out there so we took the time during the pandemic, to make sure that American is as streamlined as possible, as efficient as possible that we have the fleet and the network that we really want to fly and that meets demand the best,” Isom said.
“There’s a lot of hope because there’s a lot of demand,” Southwest Airlines (LUV) incoming CEO Bob Jordan recently told Yahoo Finance. “I think the expectation is that the holiday season looks very much like it did pre-pandemic” he added, predicting a strong holiday take-off for the industry.
Several airlines recently warned investors fourth quarter earnings will be impacted by rising fuel costs. However, United expects the pandemic recovery to continue in December. It plans to fly 3,500 domestic flights per day, roughly 91% of its 2019 capacity, its largest domestic schedule in almost two years.
Adam Shapiro is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance Live. Follow him on Twitter @Ajshaps