If you’re flying somewhere for Thanksgiving, expect planes and airports to be even more crowded this year.
U.S. airlines expect to carry 24.6 million passengers over the 12 days surrounding Thanksgiving, up 1.5 percent from last year.
The worst day: The Sunday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 30, with 2.6 million people flying on U.S. airlines.
The forecast comes from Airlines for America, a trade group representing the biggest U.S. carriers. It covers Friday, Nov. 21 through Tuesday, Dec. 2.
The group’s chief economist, John Heimlich, said Thursday that rising personal incomes and job growth are helping boost demand for travel.
Last year, the airlines’ Thanksgiving travel forecast turned out to be too high by about 3 percent. Heimlich blamed bad weather that caused widespread flight cancelations.
But historically, the crowds have been worse. Even if airlines meet this year’s forecast, Thanksgiving travel would still be about 6 percent lower than it was before the recession that began in 2008.
The airlines are doing well financially by limiting the supply of new seats and raising fares. In the first nine months of this year, the nine biggest U.S. airlines reported earnings of $6.8 billion, up from $4.5 billion a year earlier, according to the trade group. U.S. airfares rose 4.7 percent this summer from the same months last summer, after adjusting for inflation.