Reports: Summer Travel Starting Off on a Sunny Note

Recent reports show that travel by air and on America's highways is likely to surge during the summer months. While that could mean more frazzled nerves, an annual survey finds consumers are becoming more accepting of the headaches of flying.

If predictions for Memorial Day are any indicator, the summer travel season is likely to be a busy one.

A new study from the American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that 36.1 million travelers will hit the road this weekend to travel at least 50 miles between May 22 and May 26.

That would be 1.5 percent increase over last year’s actual number of travelers and would represent the second-highest travel volume during the holiday weekend since 2000—as well as a sign of economic rebound from the recession years, which tended to keep people closer to home. It also doesn’t hurt that the weather is starting to warm up after a difficult winter.

The winter blues appear to have given Americans the travel bug and a case of cruise cabin fever as travel for the holiday is expected to hit a new post-recession high.

“As we enter into the summer travel season with warmer temperatures and tulips in bloom, thoughts of historic cold are still fresh in the minds of Americans in many parts of the country,” AAA COO Marshall L. Doney said in a statement. “The winter blues appear to have given Americans the travel bug and a case of cruise cabin fever as travel for the holiday is expected to hit a new post-recession high.”

While the roads are expected to be busy, the study notes, gas prices won’t be too bad. The association expects the national Memorial Day weekend average for a gallon of gasoline to hover around $3.63.

Flying High

Airports are also expected to see a bit of an increase in traffic on Memorial Day weekend—when AAA estimates that 2.6 million leisure travelers will fly, which would be a 2.4 percent increase over last year—and throughout the summer.

The Summer Air Travel Forecast from trade group Airlines for America projects the number of passengers traveling by air between June 1 and August 31 this year to rise to 210 million, a jump of 1.5 percent from 2013. That percentage may not sound like much, but it translates to a jump of 33,000 passengers per day.

The expected rise in the overall number of passengers over that period also includes a predicted surge in international travelers, with 29.9 million of them likely to fly via U.S. carriers, a 7 percent increase.

While winter weather also proved problematic for airlines, Airlines for America’s forecast remained upbeat that, noting that despite a very slim industry profit in the first quarter and a significant amount of debt, “modest financial progress enabled carriers to continue significant levels of reinvestment to further enhance the customer experience.”

Mellowing Out

While the increased level of air travel might be expected to correspond with higher levels of passenger frustration, the projections come at a time when air travelers’ attitudes appear to be mellowing. A recent J.D. Power and Associates survey found that travelers were becoming more satisfied, with the survey’s 712-point rating (on a 1,000-point scale) representing the highest such rating since the survey was first conducted in 2006.

While annoyance with things such as luggage fees remain constant, it appears that many consumers are accepting them as a fact of life.

“People flying don’t like paying more for bags or other services,” J.D. Power’s Rick Garlick told NBC News. “However, these fees are like other fees we pay in life. People have become accustomed to knowing paying extra is a part of flying today.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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