Full Thanksgiving flights seen despite traveler decline

WASHINGTON Thu Nov 3, 2011 2:19pm EDT

Transportation Security Agency (TSA) workers carry out security checks at Denver International Airport, the day before the Thanksgiving holiday in Denver November 24, 2010. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Transportation Security Agency (TSA) workers carry out security checks at Denver International Airport, the day before the Thanksgiving holiday in Denver November 24, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. air travelers can expect full flights over the Thanksgiving holiday even as the weak economy cuts the number of passengers about 2 percent from 2010, the Air Transport Association (ATA) said on Thursday.

The full planes over Thanksgiving, the busiest travel period of the year, will result from U.S. carriers cutting capacity to match lower demand and trim costs, the ATA, an industry group, said in a statement.

Compared with 2010, about 37,000 fewer people a day are expected to fly during the 12-day period surrounding the November 24 holiday, it said.

An ATA spokesman said the drop was a result of the sputtering U.S. economy, including high unemployment and a drop in disposable income.

The statement said the ATA expected about 23.2 million people will fly on U.S. carriers' domestic and international routes over the period.

The ATA forecasts that total volumes will be 12 percent below the peak reached over Thanksgiving in 2006.

The busiest days for the period are expected to be Sunday, November 27, and Monday, November 28, followed by Friday, November 18.

The ATA said passengers were encouraged to check their flight status at their carrier's website before leaving for the airport.

They also should arrive early to allow plenty of time for check-in and security screening, it said.

An ATA study of publicly reporting U.S. passenger airlines shows net income of $913 million for the first nine months of 2011, down 66 percent from 2010, the statement said.

Operating revenues were up 12.7 percent in the period, but operating expenses rose 16.1 percent. Fuel expenses increased 38.1 percent.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Greg McCune)

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