If you think you don’t have enough legroom now, just wait. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, last year saw a record number of seats filled per flight and there will be even fewer empty middle seats in the years to come.
Slight Increases in Capacity
The FAA’s new 20-year forecast says current load factors (and we passengers are the loads) reached a record-breaking 83.2 percent in 2013. This is expected to rise to 83.8 percent in 2034. That may not sound like much but when was the last time you saw an empty middle seat on a plane? For those wondering where these additional passengers will go, well, there are still a few unsold tickets – especially for overnight flights and other less-popular times (and days) to fly.
Forecast: Passengers on U.S. Airlines
Besides more people in the air, the FAA also says more of us will fly, and we’ll fly more miles. According to the forecast, the total number of people flying on U.S. airlines will increase by another 0.8 percent this year over last year. What to expect over the next 20 years:
- 2014: Estimated 745.5 million passengers
- 2034: Estimated 1.15 billion passengers
Leveraging the Squeeze to Save Money
The whole point of increased capacity – or packed planes – is airline revenue. Fewer empty seats means less need for discounting. A good way to save is by traveling on less popular flights where it’s harder to fill all seats. Examples:
- Overnight or red-eye flights
- Flights at dawn
- Midweek flights (especially Tuesday and Wednesday)
- Saturday flights (not always true, but often)
- Connecting flights instead of non-stops (not always true, but often)
NOTE: The only way to be absolutely certain of getting the best deal is to always compare prices.