DALLAS — The unofficial start of the summer travel season kicked off with the “third busiest Memorial Day weekend” in more than two decades, according to AAA.
Travel data provider Hopper noted that seat capacity was expected to be 17% higher, or 2 million more seats, than Memorial Day weekend last year. The busiest departing airports will be Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, and Los Angeles.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) is prepared for a large influx of passengers, with Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens expecting over 2 million passengers this weekend.
Hopper also noted that average domestic airfares would peak next month at US$328 for a round-trip ticket, down from last summer’s record of US$400 but 4% higher than in 2019.
Air Traffic Control
United Airlines (UA) CEO Scott Kirby echoes the AAA but from an aviation standpoint, saying this Memorial Day will be the busiest in over a decade. The CEO warns about air traffic control (ATC) issues, which he sees as the industry’s top priority as the summer season approaches.
Though the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is training approximately 3,000 additional controllers, they will not be ready this summer.
Instead, the FAA resorted to nudging airlines to reduce flights in the New York City area this summer, and it opened 169 new flight paths along the East Coast to alleviate bottlenecks.
We’ll see how the southern and west coast airports perform in light of the ATC staffing woes.
How Busy Will the Weekend Be?
While Saturday and Sunday are expected to have the fewest flights, according to the FAA, airports in the US are expected to be congested again on Monday as travelers return home.
The TSA anticipates screening 10 million passengers between Friday and Monday, a 14% increase over the holiday in 2022 and slightly more than in 2019.
Airlines have fixed problems that contributed to a surge in flight cancellations and delays last summer when 52,000 flights were canceled from June to August, according to airline industry officials.
Since then, airlines have hired approximately 30,000 people, including thousands of pilots, and they are using larger planes to reduce flights but not the number of seats.
We’ll check back on Tuesday to tally up the weekend movement and how the US commercial aviation industry performed.
Featured image: Los Angeles LAX. Photo: Ryan Scottini/Airways