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Thanksgiving flights to carry record number of flyers

  • Airlines for America estimates a record 28.5 million people will fly U.S. airlines during the Thanksgiving holiday, thanks to a strong economy and low airfares.
  • Airlines are preparing by adding capacity through additional flights, but that weighs on passenger revenue per available seat mile.
Passengers boarding a plane.
Jeff Greenberg | UIG | Getty Images
Passengers boarding a plane.

With the economy picking up strength and airfares staying relatively low, a record number people are expected to fly during the Thanksgiving holiday period.

"Low fares and increased availability of seats continue to make air travel widely accessible," said John Heimlich, vice president and chief economist of Airlines for America, a trade group representing carriers.

Airlines for America estimates 28.5 million people will fly U.S. airlines between Friday, Nov. 17, and Tuesday, Nov. 28. If that happens it would be a 3 percent increase over 2016.

The busiest day of the Thanksgiving weekend will be Sunday, Nov. 26, when an estimated 2.88 million people are expected to take a flight.

Airlines have been preparing for more business in the fourth quarter by adding capacity through additional flights. While the customers are welcome, the increase in capacity is weighing on passenger revenue per available seat mile, a key metric to determine the profitability of airlines.

Following mixed earnings for the third quarter, airline stocks have been under pressure. Since hitting a three-month high in early October, the NYSE Arca Airline Index has dropped more than 7 percent.