Record number of travelers to fly this summer

LAX is expected to be the second busiest airport in the nation this summer

A stronger economy is expected to propel a record number of travelers to fly this summer, with Los Angeles International Airport forecast to be the second busiest airport in the nation.

From June 1 to Aug. 31, 223 million people are expected to fly on U.S.-based carriers, a record that surpasses the pre-recession high of 217 million in 2007, according to a forecast by Airlines for America, the trade group for the nation's airlines.

“The continued rise in U.S. consumer sentiment and employment is leading to more people traveling more often," said John Heimlich, vice president and chief economist for the trade group.

The forecast is also 4.5% higher than last summer's total, with a 4% increase expected in domestic travel and 7% in international travel.

Travel industry experts say the increasing strength of the U.S. dollar in comparison to the euro has made travel to Europe tempting for Americans.

The trade group says the top international destinations for the summer are Mexico's Cancun, London, Tokyo, Toronto and Paris.

After a series of airline mergers that have reduced capacity, carriers in the U.S. are now adding more seats by using larger planes. U.S.-based airlines are expected to offer 126,000 additional seats, the most since 2008, the trade group said.

The average summer airfare for domestic trips already sold for travel this summer is $454, about the same as the summer of 2014, according to a study by the Airline Reporting Corp., an Arlington, Va.-based company that handles transactions for more than 9,400 travel agencies.

Meanwhile, the average fare for a round-trip flight from the U.S. to Europe was $1,618, a 3% decline compared with last year, according to the Airline Reporting Corp.

The Automobile Club of Southern California predicted the highest number of Southern Californians in a decade would travel for the Memorial Day weekend, partly because of greater confidence in the economy.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

11:25 a.m.: This post has been updated to include a comment from John Heimlich, vice president and chief economist for Airlines for America.

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