NEW YORK Nov 12 The number of passengers
traveling with U.S. airlines over the Thanksgiving holiday
period will drop about 10 percent from last year as a weak
economy hits consumer spending and carriers cut back flights.
Thanksgiving remains the busiest travel time for U.S.
airlines, but the 2008 season will see a decline in passengers
for the first time in seven years, according to the Air
Transport Association of America (ATA), the trade body for the
leading U.S. airlines.
The ATA said on Wednesday the number of passengers will
drop from about 26 million to roughly 24 million over the
12-day Thanksgiving travel season from Nov. 21 through Dec. 2.
Thanksgiving itself is celebrated on Nov. 27 this year.
The trade association expects the three busiest travel days
will be Sunday, Nov. 30; Monday, Dec. 1, and Wednesday, Nov.
26, respectively. Planes are projected to average close to 90
percent full on these days.
ATA Chief Executive James May said the weaker economy is
hurting consumer spending and airlines have cut back their
schedules in response to economic pressures.
This could help ease congestion. "With fewer flights
operating, that should provide some relief to the air traffic
management system," said May.
"Make no mistake -- the airports will be busy and many
flights will be 100 percent full," added May.
The ATA said it is hoping the U.S. Government will once
again open up military airspace to help further ease
(Reporting by Mark McSherry; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)