Last updated: 01:00 PM ET, Mon December 21 2015

Busiest Week Of The Year Begins At US Airports

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | December 21, 2015

Busiest Week Of The Year Begins At US Airports

TravelPulse file photo

If you look at the travel headlines in the U.S. this week, almost every one concerns the coming holiday rush. The next two weeks will see millions of people take to the skies and the roadways. Unseasonably warm weather should make the process a little bit easier. Airlines actually have to be more concerned with rain instead of snow across much of the country this year. The weather might inspire more people to get out of the house and join the fray at airports and on highways. 

AAA is forecasting that nearly 100 million Americans will travel this holiday season. If they are correct, it would be the most people ever to hit the road and take to the skies over the holidays in the U.S. The organization defines “end of the year/holiday travel” as being between Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015 to Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. 

Record numbers at major airports 

The scrum has already started to form at major airports across the country. Los Angeles International expects to see a record number of fliers between Dec. 21 and Jan. 3. The busiest days during that period are expected to be  Dec. 21, Dec. 23, Dec. 27 and Dec. 30. People who want to avoid the madness can opt to travel as close to actual holiday days as possible. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are going to be relatively slow at LAX. The same goes for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  

The same “fly at the last minute” strategy will work at any major airport in the U.S. The holiday rush has already started at Boston Logan. Officials there are advising passengers to arrive at least two hours early for domestic flights. Planes will be taking off from the New England hub with 95 percent of their seats filled, on average. 

A stressful situation

Most major airports are telling people to research both their airline’s rules and TSA rules before they come to the terminal. For many fliers, this is the only time during the year when they travel. Negotiating the unfamiliar environment at any time can be stressful. It will be even worse given the projected number of fliers passing through US airports over the holiday season. 

The two main Chicago airports, Midway and O’Hare, expect to see a combined 4.6 million passengers over the holiday season. Midway is forecast to get 1.1 million, while O’Hare will vie with LAX for the title of busiest holiday airport in the country. The good news is that these numbers include this past weekend’s fliers. Sunday, Dec 20 is expected to have the highest number of passengers of any day over the next two weeks. So, perhaps, the worst is over.   

It could be worse

The two Windy city hubs are planning to give fliers something to take the edge off a little bit. Midway will be serving free hot cocoa to passengers and O’Hare has set up a photo booth where fliers can take their picture with holiday-themed props. 

When they hear a “record number of travelers,” travelers will undoubtedly be dismayed that they have to deal with an excessive amount of traffic. However, decent weather and the chance to travel during slower times of the holidays weeks means that people can avoid major delays. 


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.

Discover Club Med All-Inclusive Vacations

Hotels & Resorts