Wednesday will be the third-busiest travel day of a record Thanksgiving travel period. It is a time when the airline industry has a lot to be thankful for.
Industry profits are high, although not quite as high as in 2015, according to the industry trade group Airlines for America. Warren Buffett recently decided that airlines are a good investment and purchased stock now worth about $1.3 billion.
Employment in the airline industry, growing for 34 consecutive months, now exceeds 400,000 for the first time since 2008, A4A said. Wages are up. Operational reliability is up. Passenger satisfaction is up too.
At Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the ninth-busiest U.S. airport with about 45 million passengers in 2015, officials see two problems that result, at least partially, from increased passenger traffic.
One is a profusion of would-be passengers who attempt to carry guns onboard. The other is overcrowded parking lots, which may push some passengers out of the lowest-cost spaces.
Officials from the airport, the Transportation Security Administration, the Charlotte police department and American Airlines spoke with reporters on Monday.
The number of times passengers attempted to carry guns through TSA checkpoints in Charlotte has climbed to 52, up from 39 for the full year in 2015. Each time someone is caught with a gun in a carry-on baggage, the response is, "I'm not sure how it got there," according to Kevin Frederick, TSA federal security director for Charlotte. In nearly every case, the person is arrested and fined.
If you attempt to carry a gun onboard, "You're going to go to jail, and that's really going to impact your holiday plans," said Greg Collins, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police captain.
Nationally, the number of people who try to carry guns through security is rising precipitously. The total has risen steadily from 660 in 2005 to 2,653 in 2015 and to 2,776 in the first 10 months of 2016, according to TSA figures.
The National Rifle Association declined to comment on the increase.
Also in Charlotte, the number of low-cost parking spaces hasn't increased as rapidly as local passenger traffic in a growing metropolitan area with a high proportion of business travel. Charlotte's parking rates are among the country's lowest for major airports.
"We will have a lot of folks in the lots, and a number will close," said Jack Christine, deputy aviation director. Long-term lots, where parking costs $7 a day, fill first, he said. After that, passengers would likely pay between $10 and $35 a day to park.
Charlotte is the second-biggest hub for American Airlines (AAL) . About 75% of the 45 million passengers who use the airport annually are connecting.
The percentage of local passengers has climbed. While total airport traffic is flat this year, local traffic has grown by 5%, said airport director Brent Cagle. The airport has added 700 long-term parking spaces over the past year and now has about 29,000.
American spokeswoman Katie Cody said American will have 690 Charlotte departures on select days during the Thanksgiving travel period, ahead of the average of 664. Only Atlanta and Dallas airports have more daily departures by a single carrier.
At Denver International Airport, the sixth-biggest U.S. airport with about 53 million passengers in 2015, local traffic rose 8% in the first nine months of 2016, said spokesman Heath Montgomery. Last week, the airport said it will guarantee a $13 daily parking rate between Nov. 21 and Nov. 24.
A problem for some international holiday travelers is a planned 24-hour strike by Lufthansa pilots. The carrier has cancelled 876 of its 3,000 flights scheduled for Wednesday. Meanwhile, a threatened job action by workers, including cabin cleaners, airport janitors, wheelchair attendants and others at Chicago O'Hare has been delayed until Nov. 29.
Those workers are employed by vendors, not airlines. The Service Employees International Union is seeking to organize them and to secure a $15 hourly minimum wage. A spokesman for United (UAL) , the largest carrier at O'Hare, said, "We are taking the necessary steps to ensure safe and on-time operations for our customers."
A4A has said that a record 27.3 million passengers will fly during the 12-day Thanksgiving holiday period, up from 26.6 million in 2015. The busiest days will be Sunday with 2.81 million passengers, Monday with 2.64 million passengers and today, Wednesday, with 2.55 million passengers. The lightest day is Thanksgiving Day with 1.51 million passengers.
Meanwhile, 78% of Americans aren't planning to travel anywhere this holiday season, according to a survey by Fluent, a New York-based digital marketing firm.