WASHINGTON -- The winter holidays might bring some cheer to
airlines, but it doesn't look like they will bring much.
Load factors are rising, but that's mostly because airlines have
cut capacity to cope with reduced demand.
The Air Transport Association said it is expecting a 16% to 17%
drop in U.S. airline traffic for the three weeks surrounding the
winter holidays, compared with last year.
With the cuts in airline capacity, planes are expected to be
more than 80% full on most of the peak days of Dec. 20 to 22 and
Dec. 26 to 28.
At American, chairman Don Carty told employees the airline's
bookings through the holidays and into early January look
"promising," though the airline is losing millions of dollars each
day because of its reduced schedule and the "incredibly low prices"
it must offer to fill seats, Carty said.
United said holiday bookings seemed to be down a bit so far,
although a spokesman noted this year's Thanksgiving holiday traffic
got a boost from an unusual number of late bookings.
Delta also is down a bit, a spokeswoman said, but she added the
numbers are improving each day.
At Southwest, a spokeswoman said the airline has been encouraged
by recent bookings but still expects lower numbers than last year.
She said Southwest continues working to assure potential travelers
who are "on the fence" that they can fly safely and
We'll also be examining how the holiday season is affecting
retailers in the Dec. 24 issue of Travel Weekly.