If you’re looking to avoid the big crowds at the airport, you might delay traveling until — get this — Thanksgiving or Christmas. Contrary to popular belief, airlines carry thousands more people on some days in June, July and August than around the end-of-year holidays.
American Airlines Group Inc. expects to fly 692,300 people on July 8, making it the busiest day this summer. It will operate 6,892 flights on July 13 and again on July 20, the most so far this year. The carrier’s most-crowded day last summer was June 30, when it flew 698,300 people. By contrast, American’s biggest day in November involved 677,317 passengers, and its heaviest day in December, 682,390.
While the Sunday after Thanksgiving is often assumed to be the busiest travel day of the year, it doesn’t show up in Delta Air Lines Inc.’s top 10 by number of flights or passengers, said Michael Thomas, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based carrier. Delta flew more than 645,000 passengers on June 29, its busiest so far this year.
Remote work options and more-flexible vacation policies have helped stretch what had been a compressed Thanksgiving travel period, reducing the number of people flying the day before and the Sunday after the holiday, said Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research Group, which analyzes the travel industry.
“Airlines start to see travel begin as early as the weekend before Thanksgiving, and return travel can commence on the Friday after and continue into the following Monday,” he said in an interview.
Airlines for America, the lobbying group for U.S. carriers, says 22 of the 25 busiest travel days last year were during the summer, citing figures from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. The group has forecast that 246 million people would travel by air between June 1 and Aug. 31, up 3.7 percent from a year earlier.