US airlines expect fewer Thanksgiving travelers

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The Independent Travel

Despite discounted air fares, fewer Americans are expected to fly during the Thanksgiving holiday, traditionally the busiest US travel time, according to US airline industry forecasts.

The Air Transport Association of America (ATA) said it expects a four percent drop in passengers during the 12-day Thanksgiving holiday period this year compared to the same period in 2008.

US government data also shows that average domestic airfares in the second quarter of 2009 "fell to their lowest level since 1998, dropping 13 percent from the second quarter of 2008 - the largest year-to-year decline on record," ATA said in a statement.

Thanksgiving this year is on Thursday, November 26. The ATA said the holiday's busiest travel days are expected to be on November 20, 25, 29 and 30.

"It is increasingly apparent that the economic head winds facing the airlines and their customers are anything but behind us," said ATA president and CEO James May.

"The recent announcement that US unemployment surpassed 10 percent highlights one of the key factors impacting consumer buying decisions," May said.

In November 2008, with the US economy in an economic downturn, the number of Thanksgiving travelers dropped 10 percent compared to 2007, the biggest plunge in seven years.

Nevertheless this year "flights are likely to be quite full, driven... by the decrease in available seats and deep discounting, rather than by robust demand," ATA said.