Are US airports facing permanent Thanksgiving-style queues?


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Thanksgiving in the Skies study
The ‘Thanksgiving in the Skies’ study states that within 10 years, 25 of America’s 30 busiest airports will experience congestion on par with the Wednesday before Thanksgiving two days a week.

With 25 million people projected to fly on US airlines during the Thanksgiving holiday period, two organisations have issued a stark warning that Thanksgiving-style queues will become a common feature in major US airports over the next decade.

The studies, released by the U.S. Travel Association and the Eno Center for Transportation, warn that demand will outstrip supply at the majority of the 30 busiest American airports between now and 2024.

‘Thanksgiving in the Skies’ – the study from the U.S. Travel Association – looked at passenger volume and growth data to calculate how soon the average day at a US airport will resemble the Thanksgiving period, which is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for the country’s airports. Among the conclusions are:

  • Within the next decade, 25 of the nation’s top 30 airports will experience the same congestion as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving two days each week;
  • Within the next 15 years, every other day will feel like the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at more than half of America’s largest airports;
  • Based on the 2.22% increase in delayed arrivals over the last 10 years, an additional 119,000 flights will arrive late each year over the next decade.

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow stated in the report that US airports have “fallen way behind our global competitors”. He said: “It has become clear that the federal government can no longer care for our infrastructure on its own. In releasing these studies, the message we are sending is that every option needs to be on the table.”

Meanwhile, the recommendations put forward by the Eno Center for Transportation in its ‘Addressing Future Capacity Needs in the U.S. Aviation System’ report include:

  • Restructuring the federal Airport Improvement Program to target investment to the greatest national benefits;
  • Creating a new federal discretionary grant programme to address improvements and innovation in airport operations;
  • Relaxing the current federal restrictions on the airport Passenger Facility Charge to allow airports to raise additional revenues for investment.

What do you think of these two reports? Are you worried that the increasing demand for air travel will significantly harm the overall passenger experience at major US airports? Leave your comment below. 

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  1. Rachel Besant

    With infrastructure upgrades effectively out of the control of passengers and airlines, companies will need to rely more and more on targeted notifications to manage their operations and customer experience.

    Keeping passengers informed of delays and cancellations not only helps to ease congestion at the airports, but also reduce the frustration many feel when they just don’t know what’s going on. Add to it the ability to send a host of other personalised information to travellers, subscribers and staff – such as automated check-in and boarding passes, or real-time updates on ETD and ETA – and you can start to see what is possible today to smooth things over at the airports before they can expand.