Expect packed planes as airlines prep for busiest summer ever

  • Airlines for America expects a record 236.1 million people to fly between June 1 and Aug. 31.
  • That's an increase of 3.7 percent from last summer.
  • Rising household net worth and low airfares are helping to boost air travel.
Airliners line up for take off at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California.
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Airliners line up for take off at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California.

For the millions who are flying somewhere this summer, they may want to pack some extra patience.

The industry trade group Airlines for America is expecting a record 236.1 million people to take a flight between June 1 and Aug. 31, an increase of 3.7 percent from last summer.

"As the economy grows along with household net worth, passengers are taking advantage of persistently low airfares for their summer travel plans," said John Heimlich, vice president and chief economist at Airlines for America.

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, the travel app Hopper said the average domestic airfare is $336 and is expected to rise to $354 this summer. Those prices are down more than 12 percent from three years ago, due largely to intense airline competition keeping carriers from raising fares.

The combination of relatively low airfares along with a strong economy and high consumer confidence have convinced more people it's time to book a flight. To meet that demand, airlines have added more flights. Airlines for America calculates carriers will add 116,000 seats per day this summer to accommodate the 96,000 additional daily passengers.

While airlines are planning more robust flight schedules this summer, that may change in the months to come as carriers wrestle with higher fuel costs. Since last year, jet fuel prices are up more than 60 percent.