Record 17.5 million passengers expected to travel on US airlines over Labor Day

Record 17.5 million passengers expected to travel on US airlines over Labor Day
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The top group for U.S. airlines predicts that a record 17.5 million passengers will travel on U.S. airlines globally over the upcoming Labor Day travel period. 

That total represents 4 percent more people from 2018 during the same travel period, according to Airlines for America, and comes as airlines continue to cope with the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max planes.

“We do expect this to be an all-time high,” Airlines for America vice president and chief economist John Heimlich told reporters in a call on Tuesday.

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Airlines for America predicts U.S. airlines will carry 2.98 million passengers on the Friday before Labor Day — one of the top travel days of the year. The group also predicted seeing an average of 2.51 million passengers per day over the holiday weekend.

It expects about 95,000 more daily passengers this Labor Day period compared with Labor Day weekend in 2018.

Airlines have seen a reduction of over 300 daily flights since the 737 Max jet was grounded following a second fatal crash. Regulators have not said when the aircraft can return. 

Heimlich was positive looking ahead to Thanksgiving and holiday travel with the grounded planes after successful summer travel.

“I think getting through the summer was probably the biggest hurdle,” he said, adding that the best case scenario is that the grounded planes are back by Thanksgiving. Still, Heimlich said he was optimistic about air travel given how “smoothly” airlines have made it through the summer travel period.

“If it’s much longer than that, they’ll have to look at alternative fleet types but I think we’re far away from that and there’s a lot of confidence with all the attention and scrutiny given to the airplane,” he said.

Heimlich attributed the record-breaking travel numbers to low fares and customer satisfaction.