A Record Number of Passengers Are Expected to Travel by Plane This Labor Day Weekend

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A record 17.5 million passengers are expected to travel on U.S.-based airlines this Labor Day Weekend, celebrating the unofficial end of summer with a trip to destinations all over the world, according to a report released by trade group Airlines for America.

This comes despite some airlines experiencing scheduling difficulties with the continued grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX.

Airlines are expected to carry an average of 2.51 million passengers per day during the week-long period around Labor Day, a 4 percent increase from the same time period last year, according to Airlines for America. While most people will travel before or after the holiday with the busiest day being Friday, the lightest will be Saturday and Sunday.

“The general economic environment on the consumer side remains strong,” John Heimlich, Airlines for America’s vice president and chief economist, told Travel + Leisure in a conference call. “Those conditions and the airfare environment lead us to project record volume for Labor Day period travel.”

While more people than ever are expected to take advantage of the late summer heat, BBQ’s and great holiday weekend getaway destinations, U.S. airlines are dealing with more than 300 fewer daily flights due to the grounding of the 737 MAX, Heimlich said. In fact, a report by flight tracker OAG earlier this month found there were about 41 million fewer seats on airplanes available this summer as the 737 MAX grounding drags on.

Heimlich said that in general, airlines are adding 109,000 seats per day to accommodate the 95,000 daily passengers expected to fly during the Labor Day holiday period.

“The strong demand environment and aircraft availability for some has meant an opportunity to grow faster,” Heimlich said, adding that “for others, constraints in their system, most notably the grounding of the MAX... has led them to scale back growth.”

Southwest, American Airlines, and United have all grounded the 737 MAX planes until at least November.

“I think getting through the summer was actually probably the biggest hurdle,” Heimlich said, adding airlines have time to plan for days like Thanksgiving or Christmas. “I don’t anticipate any problems. and there's still a possibility that that airplane will be back in service by then — that would be the best case scenario, but I don’t think the worst case is so bad.”

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