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News / Life / Lifestyles

Airlines are preparing for another busy summer

By Alexandra Skores, The Dallas Morning News
Published: June 15, 2024, 6:03am

Carson Shofner and his husband were heading to Costa Rica for a relaxing trip on American Airlines on the morning of May 28.

But their plane didn’t leave Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport until May 29 at 7 a.m. It’s a situation many passengers dealt with after weeks of steady thunderstorms cascaded through North Texas, delaying hundreds of flights just as summer travel was about to take off.

“We were never offered to change flights or any sort of reimbursement,” Shofner wrote in an email from Costa Rica. “And flights to San Jose, Costa Rica, are relatively sparse, so any attempt to change would’ve been thousands of dollars.”

He’s one of many summer travelers who were hoping for a smooth trip this travel season.

Airlines, airports and partners like the Transportation Security Administration are expecting a record number of travelers. At DFW Airport, home to American Airlines, that’s nearly 25 million passengers between May and July. At Dallas Love Field, home to Southwest Airlines, nearly 190,000 travelers were expected to pass through the airport on Memorial Day weekend alone.

Airlines for America, which represents major U.S. airlines, predicts a 6.3 percent increase in passengers from this summer to last. From June 1 to Aug. 31, that’s over 271 million people who will fly on a U.S. airline. Last year, that figure was 255 million people.

Shofner and his husband live in Dallas and he posts frequently on his social media and has 67,000 followers on TikTok and 21,300 followers on Instagram. He posted a video to TikTok to talk about his experience of waiting for his flight to take off, from crew changes to communication challenges and delays that took up what could have been an entire day at a beach.

That video has almost 1 million views as of June 4.

And summer has barely even started.

Airfares might cool down for some travelers this year.

In its 2024 summer outlook, travel booking app Hopper reported domestic airfare for June, July and August averaging $305 per ticket, down 6 percent from this time last year. Of course, those numbers fluctuate the longer a traveler waits to book their seat on the plane.

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This will be the first year that prices have dropped year over year since 2020.

What does it take?

Despite inflationary pressures, the intent to travel and spend on flights and lodging remains high, according to Deloitte’s annual summer travel survey.

“The intent to travel is pretty, pretty steady,” said Matt Soderberg, U.S. airline practice leader at Deloitte.

One in five people, he said, plan to spend more this year than they did last year on travel. Deloitte’s survey also found that 43 percent of air travelers are willing to pay for more comfortable flight experiences, up from last year.

Airlines and airports may be at the forefront of everyone’s mind regarding disruptions this summer travel season.

Still, it is a team effort, according to Keith Jeffries, former TSA Federal Security Director at Los Angeles International Airport. It’s all hands on deck when you have record numbers of travelers passing through.

Between May 17 and Sept. 3, American expects more than 72 million passengers. The Fort Worth-based carrier is flying more seats than any other summer, with 10 percent more departures than last summer. American is also flying to eight destinations in summer 2024 that the airline had not served in summer 2023, including Albany, N.Y.; Appleton, Wisc.; Manhattan, Kan.; Redmond, Ore.; St. George, Utah; Tulum and Veracruz, Mexico; and Barcelona.

This year, DFW’s top five busiest days to travel will be July 8, July 25, July 29, Aug. 1 and July 7, based on the number of flights and the number of seats available, according to aviation analytics firm Cirium.

“DFW and North Texas, travelers that should have confidence flying through DFW (Airport),” said David Seymour, chief operating officer at American in an interview with The Dallas Morning News last month. “… It’s our largest operation and provides so much connectivity for our customers to be able to connect and go in just about anywhere they want.”

Southwest projects almost 57 million travelers to fly between May 24 and Sept. 2. The Dallas-based airline is flying an average of 4,112 flights a day, with July 7 as the peak travel day for the airline with 4,452 scheduled flights.

Delivery delays, Boeing

One uncertainty that looms over the entire travel industry is Boeing.

The manufacturer has faced problems since January when an Alaska Airlines door plug blowout left a hole in the side of a Boeing 737 Max 9 fuselage with passengers onboard. .

Since this incident, and years of safety concerns like the 2019 grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 8 after two crashes killed all passengers on board each plane, Boeing has been in the public eye.

American said the delivery delays ultimately forced the airline to reduce three long-haul routes from DFW Airport this year. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner delivery delays made the carrier adjust routes for the second half of the year and first quarter of 2025.

American now expects to receive three 787 Dreamliners this year, down from six.

Southwest also lowered its expectations for aircraft deliveries from plane maker Boeing. Where it now expects 20 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft deliveries in 2024, it previously anticipated 46.