Thanksgiving week marks the official start of the holiday season, and therefore the official start of the infamous winter travel season. According to AAA, Thanksgiving weekend in 2017 will be the country’s busiest travel season since 2005. With an estimated 50.9 million people traveling 50 miles or more this weekend, you will likely see overcrowded airports made worse by flight delays or cancellations. Capacity challenges, like the ones we experience during the holiday season, strain our existing infrastructure and frustrate the traveling public.
Although U.S. airports serve more than two million passengers every day, Airlines for America reports that a record-breaking 28.5 million people will be in the air during the week of Thanksgiving, with Atlanta and Los Angeles as the two busiest airports. To keep pace with demand, many airlines are expanding service this week by adding 86,000 seats daily to combat holiday capacity issues and compensate for this unprecedented number.
Unfortunately, built infrastructure cannot be expanded so immediately. Capacity constraints during the holidays squeeze existing airport operations, translating to long security lines, crowded terminals, and tight turnaround times at gates that can contribute to delays. These landslide challenges are only forecasted to increase in future years. In 2015, there were 786 million enplanements and this number is expected to increase to 1.24 million in 2036. It is expected that 24 of the top 30 major airports may soon experience Thanksgiving-peak traffic volumes at least one day every week.
Fortunately, there are steps we can take today to better prepare ourselves for airport capacity challenges. By increasing prices by just $1 per airline ticket, we can provide airport infrastructure with the funding it needs to accommodate projected growth, allowing for investment to improve airport facilities and the air traffic control system. Increased investment will help airports manage the growing passenger numbers throughout the year and allow airlines to increase service during the busy holiday season, unfettered by infrastructure challenges on the ground.
If you are in the air, on a road trip, or taking the train, you will find yourself relying on our nation’s D+ infrastructure this holiday season, a time when congestion and delays are at a yearly high and our infrastructure system is pushed to its limit. To understand the infrastructure struggle and find out how you can ensure adequate and stable funding for our transportation systems, take a look at the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card.