Airline group predicts 14 million Labor Day passengers

U.S. airlines will carry 14 million passengers over the Labor Day weekend, the group that advocates for them in Washington predicted on Thursday.

Airlines for America (A4A) said it was anticipating a 2 percent increase in traffic on flights over the Labor Day holiday over the 13.8 million who took plane trips in 2013.

The figure is a lot higher than an earlier prediction of 2.65 million, released earlier on Thursday by the AAA auto club, but the motorist group was defining the holiday period differently than the aviation association.

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AAA's Labor Day holiday weekend definition runs from Thursday to Sunday, but A4A defines it from Wednesday to Tuesday.

The airline group said it was confident in its holiday projection.

"A4A projects a 2 percent year-over-year increase in the number of passengers flying on U.S. airlines during the seven-day Labor Day travel period," the group said. "From Wednesday Aug. 27 through Tuesday, Sept. 2, A4A expects 14 million air travelers will take to the skies, up from an estimated 13.8 million in 2013, with the busiest day of the period occurring on Friday, Aug. 29. Airlines are adding seats to the marketplace to accommodate the expected increase in demand."

The aviation group said the nine largest U.S. airlines — Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United — made a collective profit of $3.8 billion in the first half of 2014.

The figure more than doubles the profit margin of $1.6 billion that was reported by the major U.S. airlines during the same period in 2013.

"Airlines are key drivers of jobs and economic growth, and improving finances have further accelerated their investments in people, products and technology to enhance the travel experience for customers," A4A Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich said in a statement. "With U.S. personal incomes continuing to outpace airfares, air travel is far more accessible to customers than it was in the past."

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