Air travel during the holiday season is off to a slow start this year

Travelers trying to get to and from the Northeast and mid-Atlantic during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend could find packed terminals at their favorite airports as airlines try to recover from a summer of high-profile canceled flights and rebooked flights.

More than 420,000 travelers are expected to fly during the Thanksgiving holiday period, and by this time next year about 1 million could be flying, said Seth Kaplan, an analyst at Airline Weekly.

This holiday season is being framed as a test for the airlines because of high fixed costs associated with large fleets of planes and flight schedules, and carriers are unable to offset those expenses by adding flights or extra flights that aren’t canceled. Airlines typically raise their prices in the summer, and they should, said Mr. Kaplan, adding, “But they won’t be able to offset those costs.”

There is another factor complicating the airlines’ Thanksgiving prediction, said Mr. Kaplan, who has been covering the industry for more than two decades. He noted that business travel — an important sector for airlines — had been strong through the summer, which has negatively affected revenue. And he added that if there is no change in the presidential election or the federal budget, there could be more turbulence for travel.

In an interview Monday with The Associated Press, David Castelveter, a spokesman for the Airlines Reporting Corp., an industry consortium, said that about 54 percent of holiday bookings were already made, a number that has been flat to down from last year. Most booking data is calculated by airlines before the season, but the final numbers may vary.

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