Summer Air Travel Forecast: Crowds

May 9, 2012 11:52am

Vacation season promises to be crowded this summer, especially on overseas flights, and rising fuel prices will keep flying expensive.

The Airlines for America (A4A) annual summer forecast released today predicts more international fliers than ever before, while domestic flights hold steady at 2011 rates.

The report from A4A, the industry trade association for the leading U.S. airways, predicts the 2012 summer travel season, June through August, will see an average of 2.24 million travelers globally every day on U.S. airlines.  That comes to roughly 206.2 million passengers expected to travel globally on U.S. airlines, alone.

That’s still 5 percent below the 2007 summer peak, with domestic flights expected to see almost 180 million passengers this summer, comparable to summer 2011.

“Where we are seeing a bump is in international travel,” A4A vice president and chief economist John Heimlich said.

Predicting that of the more than 200 million total passengers expected to travel on U.S. airlines this summer, almost 29 million will be traveling on international flights, surpassing last summer’s international flights record by 2 percent.

Although gas at the pump is declining, airlines saw a 19 percent increase in fuel prices during the first quarter of 2012, and the industry predicts a 7 percent increase overall for jet fuel this year.

The hottest (and we’re not just talking temperature) summer travel month is July, where A4A expects flights to be at more than 85 percent capacity, with many flights at capacity.

A recent survey by travel site Orbitz also predicts heavy travel in July, which the largest share of vacationers (31 percent) indicated to be the month for getting away.  August follows with 20 percent planning vacations and June is a close third with 18 percent of travelers.

And for those just getting ready to book your summer vacation, be prepared for slightly higher hotel prices. Orbitz predicts hotel prices will be up about 5 percent for summer.

It has been two to five years for about 25 percent of travelers surveyed since taking their last trip, according to the travel site survey.

ABC News’ Genevieve Brown contributed to this report.

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