2023 Holiday Travel Season Was Busy, But Smooth

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Travelers moving through the nation’s airports during the 2023 holiday season faced relatively few travel delays, particularly compared to 2022.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reported on Jan. 3 that the flight cancellation rate was just 0.8 percent between Dec. 17, 2023, and Jan. 1, 2024, “despite a record number of passengers flying during the busy holiday season.”

The cancellation rate during the same period in 2022 was 8.2 percent.

Overall in 2023, just 1.2 percent of the 16.3 million flights that took to the air were canceled, the lowest rate in over a decade, according to DOT. The smooth operations come despite the fact that more people traveled by air in the U.S. last year than ever before.

A December 2022 Southwest Airlines scheduling system meltdown, caused in part by winter storm disruptions, helped spike the flight cancellation rate to 2.2 percent that year.

Southwest canceled 16,900 flights and stranded over two million passengers over the 2022 Christmas holiday and into the New Year, resulting in the carrier paying out $600 million in refunds and a $140 million civil penalty ordered by DOT in December 2023 for failing to provide adequate customer service to last year’s stranded passengers, notify travelers about cancellations, and issue refunds promptly.

Holiday Travel Estimates Increased for 2023

Final air travel numbers for 2023 have not yet been reported, but in its annual holiday travel forecast, AAA estimated that 115.2 million travelers would head 50 miles or more from home over the 10-day year-end holiday travel period. That was an expected 2.2 percent increase over 2022 and the second-highest forecast issued since 2000 when AAA began tracking holiday travel.

AAA estimated that 7.5 million Americans would travel by air during the 2023 holiday season, up from 7.3 million in 2022, with slightly lower airline ticket prices helping to increase the rate of air travel. Travel by car was also anticipated to be higher, according to the projections issued on Dec. 11, 2023, with an expected 104 million Americans driving to their holiday destinations, up 1.8 percent compared to 2022. Both air and auto travel were expected to be the second-highest on record, falling short only of levels seen in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, according to AAA.

This post first appeared at Prevue’s sister site, recommend.com.

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