Some 4 per cent fewer revenue passengers will travel on U.S. airlines' scheduled services during the 2009 Thanksgiving Holiday period from November 20 through...

Some 4 per cent fewer revenue passengers will travel on U.S. airlines’ scheduled services during the 2009 Thanksgiving Holiday period from November 20 through December 1 than in the same peak period last year, according to the Air Tranpost Association of America (ATA).

The ATA, whose member airlines and their affiliates transport more than 90 per cent of all U.S. airline passenger and cargo traffic, expects to see the 4 per cent passenger decline despite deep discounting by the airlines over the past several months.


“It is increasingly apparent that the economic head winds facing the airlines and their customers are anything but behind us. The recent announcement that U.S. unemployment surpassed 10 per cent highlights one of the key factors impacting consumer buying decisions,” says James May, ATA president and CEO.

But despite the expected passenger decline, flights still are likely to be quite full this Thanksgiving ― as is typical in the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, says ATA.

This year, however, full cabins on scheduled domestic flights will result from a decrease in available seats and deep discounting rather than from robust demand, the association says. Carriers have cut back their schedules in response to economic pressures, with 2009 capacity reductions the deepest since 1942.

In addition, recently released government data show that average domestic airfares in the second quarter of 2009 fell to their lowest level since 1998, dropping 13 per cent from the second quarter of 2008. This is the largest year-to-year decline on record, says the ATA.

Based on sample data from the Thanksgiving 2008 period, the ATA expects the four busiest travel days surrounding Thanksgiving Day this year to be Monday, November 30; Sunday, November 29; Friday, November 20; and Wednesday, November 25, in that order.

A line of aircraft wait on a taxiway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to turn on to a runway for take-off. Hartsfield-Jackson is the world's busiest airport both for aircraft movements and for passengers

A line of aircraft wait on a taxiway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to turn on to a runway for take-off. Hartsfield-Jackson is the world's busiest airport both for aircraft movements and for passengers

ATA is expecting the federal government once again to open up Special Activity Airspace to help ease congestion.

Because of the expected crush, May is encouraging passengers to pack light, to check their flight status before leaving for the airport, and to remember to arrive early.

“During this busy travel period especially, passengers should plan ahead and provide plenty of time for airport check-in and security screening,” said May. In addition, ATA encourages passengers to consult the resource page of its website for recommended travel tips.

In particular, the ATA provides this advice:

● All passengers are strongly encouraged to review the Web site of the airline on which they are flying for respective policies, amenities, customer service plans and flight-operation alert notifications;

● Remember that the Transportation Security Administration requires that air travelers follow its ‘3-1-1 Rule’ for liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on bags when passing through security checkpoints. The ‘3-1-1 Rules’ refers to the TSA’s regulation that in carry-on baggage, liquids and gels are restricted to bottles of 3.4 ounces or less by volume and that all such bottles must fit in one quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag, to limit the total liquid volume each traveler . The rule also specifies that each passenger is only allowed one bag, placed in the screening bin; and

● Passengers should be aware that they will be asked to provide their date of birth and gender when making a reservation, as part of the TSA’s new Secure Flight program. Travelers should expect no change in the travel experience, however, as a result of this security initiative.

For additional information about the U.S. airline industry and the ATA, visit www.airlines.org.