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Labor Day weekend expected to set a record with 16.5 million air travelers

Labor Day weekend expected to set a record with 16.5 million air travelers
Travelers wait at the Delta Air Lines counter at Los Angeles International Airport on Sept. 4, 2015, the getaway day for the Labor Day holiday. Industry leaders predict 16.5 million people will travel on U.S. carriers this holiday weekend. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

During the final holiday of the summer, a record 16.5 million people are expected to fly on U.S. airlines, a 3.5% increase over the Labor Day weekend in 2017, according to Airlines for America, the trade group for the nation’s air carriers.

The country’s airlines are expected to fly 2.36 million passengers a day over a seven-day holiday period, an increase of 79,000 travelers a day from the same period in 2017, according to the trade group. The carriers are expected to fly 2.76 million additional seats a day to meet the higher demand.

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Airline industry experts attribute the increase in air travel to affordable airline tickets but say the demand for travel has been increasing for several years along with the rebound of the U.S. economy and the strengthening of consumer confidence.

In the first three months of 2018, the average domestic airline ticket sold for $360, a decline of 3.7% from the same period last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

But the airline industry trade group warns that fuel prices are on the rise, which has begun pushing down the profit margins of the country’s airlines. Some airline experts have warned that such conditions may push fares up soon.

Fuel prices have increased 31.1%, with labor costs rising 5.7% in the first half of 2018 compared with the same period last year, according to Airlines for America. That has pushed profit margins for the nation’s airlines from an average of 11.5% in the first six months of 2017 to 7.2% in the same period this year, the group said.

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