This summer low airfares and travel deals have created a buzz among Americans. But, with the buzz, excitement, and savings, comes one problem: airports aren’t ready for the influx of travelers.
According to Airlines for America, between the months of June and August, US airlines could carry as many as 231 million passengers, 2.5 million passengers every day. These numbers are a summer travel record, predicting close to 100,000 more passengers per day compared to 2015.
The trend of decreasing airfare began in late 2015 and has carried over into 2016, pleasing passengers, but leaving airports, especially the Transport Security Administration (TSA) ill equipped. In the fourth quarter of last year, the average price for an airline ticket was $363, the lowest price Americans have seen since 2010, according to the Department of Transportation.
Lower airfares, due to low fuel costs, have been good for travelers and airlines. In the first quarter of 2016, Airlines for America found that the US’s 10 publicly traded airlines—Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, American, Delta, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, United, and Virgin American—reported $4.8 billion in pre-tax earnings. For these airlines, the profit margin is 13.2 percent, already a two percent increase from last year.
Airlines are using this increased profit to improve, and in some cases reimagine, the customer experience. Some airlines have added new or increased Wi-Fi capability and entertainment options, while others have purchased newer, bigger aircrafts. By using larger aircrafts this summer, US airlines will offer 2.78 million seats everyday.
Though lower airfares have kept our wallets happy, that feeling is compromised at over-crowded airports. Many airports in the US are already operating at capacity, and while some have expansion plans in the works, those projects will not be completed for years. Passengers are already feeling the effects, kept waiting for hours in the nation’s largest airports, like Atlanta and Phoenix.
In one of the most extreme examples, early last month, close to 500 passengers missed their flights at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, forced to spend the night at the airport. This all due to long lines at baggage counters, ticketing machines, and security checkpoints. Airport officials are now urging passengers to arrive as many as three hours before their departure time.
Thanks to social campaigns and Congressional budgeting, TSA now has the motivation and $34 billion to hire and train 800 new screening officers. Some of the money, added to TSA’s budget by Congress, will also be used to provide overtime for existing staff. Many Americans are concerned, however, that these TSA changes will not be made early enough to improve summer travel conditions.
To maintain your sanity (and your itinerary), consider purchasing TSAPreCheck to avoid long waits at security. To save time at the airport and on the aircraft, pack only carry-on bags whenever possible. Keep your electronics and liquids easily accessible to move through security as timely as possible. And finally, remember to charge your electronics before you leave home as gates will be overly crowded and outlets hard to come by. For more information regarding Summer airline plans, [Click Here].
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