Holiday Travel – Flight Cutbacks for Thanksgiving 2009

Holiday Travel – Seat Cutbacks for Thanksgiving 2009

Airlines have been tinkering with flight schedules over the past few years and unfortunately for many passengers the trend has been a gradual but continual downsizing of domestic seats flown over the last several quarters as the airlines first had to cope with fuel prices then more recently with the drop in air travel demand related to the economic recession.

Of course not all seat cutbacks are created equal with some cities incurring the brunt of the downsizing and the follow on of higher airline ticket prices, while passengers in a handful of other cities who have gained seats have hit the jackpot on cheap tickets as both low cost and legacy airlines do battle over a handful of routes.

Even the low cost airlines who have seen years of perennial growth spurts have trimmed back their wings to deal with the uncertainty about demand in the current economic backdrop.

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching I thought it was a good time to pull our historical flight schedule data and see which cities are the winners & losers in current game of seat cutbacks, so I pulled the number of seats flown for the 50 busiest cities in North America for departures on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (the busiest air travel day of the year) for both 2008 and 2009 for comparison (table at the bottom).

The biggest loser with over a 23% city cutback was Delta Air Lines hub Cincinnati, closely followed by Hartford, Tampa and St. Louis.

On the flip side the big winner by a long shot was Milwaukee with a whopping 29% increase in seats.

Overall for these top 50 busiest cities there was an average drop in seats of 3.4% with 80,000 fewer seats this year than the day before Thanksgiving last year. Even with these hefty cuts both days show that over 2 million seats will be departing on what is normally the 1st or 2nd busiest travel day of the year (Wednesday before Thanksgiving).

Take a look below and city where your city falls and remember that competition is the main driver of the price point for airline tickets and don’t forget to review our 2009 holiday travel guide to finding the cheapest travel days around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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Published: September 22, 2009