Summer air travel 2024: The hurdles flyers will be facing


If you’re expecting to take to the skies this summer, you should also expect lots and lots and lots of companionship. And a few hurdles, too.

Memorial Day weekend, the traditional launching pad of the summer travel season, is shaping up to set a scorching pace. The Federal Aviation Administration has forecast the holiday to be its busiest in 14 years.

The Transportation Security Administration expects to screen 18 million passengers and crew between Thursday and Wednesday – up more than 6% over last year. TSA says it’s prepared for its busiest summer ever.

American Airlines and United Airlines are both expecting about 10% more passengers over the holiday weekend than last year. United is expecting the biggest Memorial Day and summer travel season in the airline’s 98-year history, according to Andrew Nocella, United’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer.

When it comes to navigating the flocks of fellow flyers, don’t look for much of an ease-up after Memorial Day weekend.

US airlines are predicted to carry 271 million passengers around the world from June 1 to August 31, according to industry trade organization Airlines for America. That’s a 6.3% increase from last summer, and a new record for US airlines.

To meet the higher demand, Airlines for America said that US carriers will offer more than 26,000 scheduled flights a day – up nearly 1,400 a day from summer 2023.

While US airlines have staffed up and the TSA says it’s ready for the summer crush, an air traffic controller crunch, hot weather and crowded airports could bring flight disruptions and pain points.

Markus Mainka/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

The air traffic control tower at Los Angeles International Airport is a busy place. The United States is still short thousands of air traffic control personnel.

Despite a surge in hiring last year, air traffic control stations nationwide are still about 3,000 controllers short, according to new FAA numbers.

The numbers show the challenge of filling the gap that led to flight delays and concerns that fatigue contributed to a series of near collisions on runways last year.

The current understaffing means controllers at many facilities are regularly working overtime to cover gaps. The shortage is a concern of airlines, controllers and watchdogs alike.

Scott Keyes, founder of travel site Going, said that because of the way air traffic control maps are divvied up, airports in New York City metro area and in Florida have a…

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