Christmas time at an airport
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A total of 47.5 million people are expected to fly all over the world on U.S. airlines during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period — a 3 percent increase from last year, according to an airline trade group.

In a report by Airlines for America, the group predicted an average 2.6 million passengers would fly each day during the busy holiday season starting on Dec. 19 and ending on Jan. 5. That’s an increase of about 72,000 passengers per day this winter.

The busiest day for travel will be Friday, Dec. 20 when 3 million passengers are expected to travel. That is followed by 2.9 million passengers expected each on Saturday, Dec. 21, Friday, Dec. 27, and Thursday, Dec. 26.

Conversely, if you’re looking to avoid the crowds as much as possible, the trade group suggests your best bet may be to travel on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

“Throughout this year we’ve seen steady gains in air travel demand, and this winter will be no exception” John Heimlich, the vice president and chief economist for Airlines for America, said in a statement. “Buoyed by a healthy economy and plentiful, affordable air service, travelers once again are expected to take to the skies in record numbers.”

The trade group said airlines are ready for the crowds and have added 88,000 seats per day and 884 flights per day to accommodate the extra holiday passengers.

The boom comes as the Transportation Security Administration reported it screened a record number of passengers the day after Thanksgiving, or more than 2.8 million people, according to the trade group. While the airports were busier than ever, most passengers -- or 99.8 percent of them — waited less than 30 minutes at a checkpoint, according to Airlines for America, citing TSA statistics.

While crowded airports aren’t much fun, there are plenty of things you can do in one without spending much money or driving yourself crazy. And if you get stuck (blame those pesky winter storms), take advantage and turn an unexpected layover into a sightseeing adventure.