Thursday, November 26, 2009

More Debunking of Holiday-Travel Hooey

I've been ridiculing all of those media knee-jerk stories about the "Thanksgiving crush" in air travel, noting that the total number of flights are down (by over 5 percent this year compared with last year's Thanksgiving holiday; by more than 20 percent compared with 2000). Not only that, but flights have been averaging 83-84 percent full loads for months -- and over 80 percent for more than a year. At those load factors, nearly every flight is packed full and has been for a long time.

So in the air, the Thanksgiving travel period is overblown as a story. The main difference is that the ratio of business travelers to leisure travelers changes. More leisure travelers hit the system while business travel routinely declines. But the same thing also occurs during the peak summer periods. Also, keep in mind that all business travelers are also leisure travelers at times.

Now comes Carl Bialik, who writes an excellent column called "The Numbers Guy" in the Wall Street Journal. The column uses actual numbers and real data (eeeek!) to evaluate various airy claims -- like the Thanksgiving air-travel hype.

Writes Bialik: "In fact, no day last November figured in the top 220 out of the 366 days in 2008, based on the number of flights reported by airlines to the Department of Transportation. ... November hasn't had a day in the top 35 most-traveled in years, according to DOT figures, which track the daily number of flights, not passengers. Instead, most of the busiest days for U.S. airports hit during the summer, when school is out."


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