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Airlines expect record-setting summer travel season with fewer planes, fewer pilots (AAL)

Despite a shortage of planes and furloughed pilots, Airlines for America is predicting another strong travel season this summer with 271M global passengers forecasted to travel between June 1 and August 31 on U.S. carriers, a 6.3% increase from summer 2023. Globally, the number of air travelers is predicted to reach a record of 4.7B, a 4.4% increase from the pre-pandemic levels of 2019.
A busy summer presents unique logistical challenges for a beleaguered industry as U.S. carriers have faced a series of obstacles this year, beginning with the grounding of the workhorse of the airline industry after the Alaska Airlines (ALK) incident.
Carriers have scrambled to find comparable replacement jets from Airbus (EADSY, EADSF), and Embraer S.A. (ERJ), even willing to pay inflated leasing fees. The lack of new plans forced carriers to furlough pilots, suspend hiring of new pilots, and cut flights to less lucrative destinations. While airlines were struggling to augment their fleets, the Department of Transportation enacted a new rule requiring a full refund to passengers whose flights were canceled, delayed, or changed.
Of the major U.S. carriers, all are anticipating another increase in summer travel. American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) is expecting 72 million flyers this summer on 690K flights with 10% more departures from last summer.
United (NASDAQ:UAL) also expects a record-setting summer as the carrier plans for its busiest Memorial Day weekend with a record 3M passengers, a 10% increase over 2023.
Delta (NYSE:DAL) is also predicting 3M passengers for the Memorial Day weekend, up 5% from a year ago in what the carrier considers will be its “most constructive backdrop” for the airline industry.
The Transportation Security Administration is expecting some travel days this summer will see 3.1M passengers, exceeding the previous “busiest day on record” which was the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2023.
And according to Google Flights, London is the top destination this summer, followed by Paris — the host of the Summer Olympics. Tokyo, Rome, and New York round out the top five.
Shares of UAL, AAL, and DAL are all higher on Tuesday.

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