Travel is a Turkey—and not Just at Thanksgiving

November 18, 2014
US Travel

Think airline travel during the holidays is hellish? Get ready for crowds and chaos all year long at many of the country’s major U.S. airports.

This grim news, according to data released by the U.S. Travel Association on Tuesday, showed that traffic at the 30 largest U.S. airports will increase faster than previously projected, due to a rise in travel demand and “continued chronic underinvestment in infrastructure.”

The findings are an update on USTA’s annual "Thanksgiving in the Skies" study and measure how soon the average day at U.S. airports will resemble the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. That day is one of the worst air travel days of the year, with passenger volumes anywhere between 108-259 percent higher than the average day.

Passenger volumes will become more frequent as air travel grows, and it’s growing fast. Among the study’s findings:

  • In 2013, six of the 30 largest U.S. airports were already experiencing congestion levels equal to the Wednesday before Thanksgiving one day per the average week. This year, the number of airports already at that congestion level has more than doubled to 13.
  • All 30 airports in the study will now experience Thanksgiving-like congestion one day per week within the next six years.
  • Newark Airport, Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Honolulu International Airport will start to experience Thanksgiving-like traffic two days per week next year, all sooner than expected. Logan International Airport in Boston now gets there in 2016.

Every day at Chicago Midway Airport and McCarran International in Las Vegas will feel like Thanksgiving beginning next year—both about a decade sooner than previously forecast.

The study concludes that “unless Congress acts to improve our nation’s airports, air travel in the United States is headed for Thanksgiving-like congestion year-round.”

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