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Summer air travel prediction: crowded airports and planes

May 16, 2013|By Hugo Martin
  • The Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. U.S. carriers are expected to set a new record with 27 million travelers flying to international destinations this summer.
The Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. U.S. carriers are expected… (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)

Airports will be crowded this summer and empty cabin seats extremely rare as Americans take to the skies in numbers that are expected to edge closer to the pre-recession peak.

Nearly 209 million people will fly on U.S.-based airlines this summer, up 1% from last summer, according to a projection released Thursday by the trade group for the nation's airlines.

The travel forecast by Airlines for America would mark the fourth year in a row that passenger totals have increased, climbing close to the all-time high of nearly 218 million in 2007.

U.S. carriers are expected to set a new record with 27 million travelers flying to international destinations this summer.

The good news for travelers is that fuel prices have remained stable in the past year, putting pressure on airlines to keep airfares low. The bad news is that the average plane cabin will be 86% to 87% full throughout the summer.

The summer period between June 1 and Aug. 31 will include nine of the 11 busiest travel days.

The Airlines for America forecast did not predict airfare prices, but the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported earlier this week that airfares increased by 3% in 2012, compared with the previous year.

"It's a great time to fly as airfares remain a bargain and airlines are delivering strong on-time performances," said John Heimlich, chief economist for the trade group.

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