Labor Day Was The Best Weekend For Airlines In A Long Time

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The Labor Day holiday is a wrap. The last major national holiday before November was one of the best weekends for airlines in a long time. Though the TSA did not record one million passengers in a day at all over the holiday, it was still a strong weekend and a “last hurrah” before what will likely be a tough rest of the year.

American Airlines Boeing 737
The mantra at American Airlines has been to keep flying and maintain a robust schedule. Photo: Getty Images

Passenger counts were great

Passenger counts were pretty great leading up to the weekend and at the end:

  • Thursday (09/03): 877,698 passengers
  • Friday (09/04): 968,673 passengers
  • Saturday (09/05): 664,640 travelers
  • Sunday (09/06): 689,630 travelers
  • Monday (09/07): 935,308 passengers

The Thursday and Friday are always a historically busy time leading up to Labor Day. For a lot of passengers, the holiday is the last major break before schools resume in the fall, and the weather cools down across the northern United States, such as in New England, the Pacific Northwest, and other regions. One of the most recent examples is Denver, which went from hot to cold in a period of 24 hours.

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Social Distancing
Passengers were ready to get back on a plane over Labor Day. Photo: Getty Images

One of the last busy weekends for thousands of employees

Unfortunately, it does not appear that there is much of an appetite for further government support for the airline industry. This means, from October 1st, that thousands of pilots, flight attendants, maintenance workers, and others will be furloughed.

For some in the industry facing furloughs, the weekend was one of the last times that they might see full planes or busy counters. This, for many, might be a pleasant memory to take with them as their time in the industry comes to either an unfortunate end or an indefinite pause.

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united cabin crew demonstrates mask
For some flight attendants, Labor Day may be their last memory of a full flight. Photo: Getty Images

For airlines, a glimmer of hope

US airlines have been slowly rebuilding since April when traffic bottomed out. After massive gains in June, passenger counts plateaued in July, made a slight uptick in August, and then came to a head with Labor Day becoming one of the most successful weekends of the summer.

Though the one million passengers in a day barrier was not broken, airlines could still rejoice at how close the industry got – just about 32,000 passengers shy. Regardless, the numbers were the best daily counts on Thursday, Friday, and Monday since March– a huge feat.

Delta and United
United and Delta have been a little more conservative compared to American with their schedules. Photo: Getty Images

Unfortunately, for the airlines to prepare for the Thanksgiving holidays, which now seems more likely to cross the one million count in one day, they have to get through a September and October, historically driven by business travelers, in which few corporate customers are getting back on planes. That, easier said than done, will likely all be worth it by November. However, before then, there will probably be an uptick in bookings for people looking to head home (or elsewhere) over Thanksgiving and even out to the Christmas and New Year’s vacation.

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Did you fly over the Labor Day holiday? What was your travel experience like? Are you planning any travels this year? Let us know in the comments!

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