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Fewer expected to fly for Labor Day holiday

August 19, 2008|Peter Pae | Times Staff Writer

Higher air fares, fewer flights and a slumping economy seem to be keeping travelers closer to home for the Labor Day holiday.

An airline industry group said Monday that only 16 million passengers are expected to board planes during the end-of-summer holiday period. That's down 5.7% from last year, when 17 million passengers flew on U.S. airlines.

"We expect airplanes to be less full and skies to be less crowded this Labor Day holiday," said James C. May, president of the Air Transport Assn. trade group. "Economic uncertainty and the heavy hit from sky-high energy prices mean that many vacation and business travelers are choosing to stay closer to home -- if they go at all."

The Labor Day holiday is typically one of the busiest travel periods as families scramble to take a last summer fling before the start of school. It has meant crowded airports and jammed planes.

But this year, fewer people are planning long-distance getaways as they look to cut back on spending amid high fuel costs that have raised prices on everything from gas to groceries, the airline group said.

Airlines have also been cutting back and slashing flights to cope with fuel expenses, leaving passengers with fewer travel options and higher fares.

Though there has been a "welcome drop" in fuel prices in recent weeks, the trade group said, jet fuel still averages more than $160 a barrel, or nearly 80% more than a year ago, when it was selling for about $90 a barrel.

Labor Day fares are up an average of 25% compared with a year ago, according to Live Search Farecast, an air travel search website. LAX passengers are faring a little better, with the cost of flights there rising 19%.


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