The summer travel season begins Friday, the first day of Memorial Day weekend, and anxieties abound.
A laptop ban, which has been endlessly discussed and encountered numerous objections, may or may not be imposed at select European airports. A series of cabin incidents, widely viewed on social media, have involved disruptive passengers and made flight attendants wary. And passengers know they may face long airport security lines before boarding crowded airplanes.
Yet, despite all the handwringing, ticket sales are booming.
Airlines for America said a record 234.1 million passengers -- approximately 2.54 million per day -- will fly on U.S. airlines between June 1 and Aug. 31. That is a 4% gain from the summer of 2016.
"The airlines are seeing strong demand and improved yields in 2Q17," Cowen & Co. analyst Helane Becker wrote in a report issued Wednesday. "Most of the airlines have also made positive comments about 3Q17 bookings."
Recently, American (AAL) , Delta and JetBlue all boosted their current quarter unit revenue guidance.
On American's April earnings call, President Robert Isom said, "Looking forward, the revenue environment at American is very strong, and we expect this momentum to continue." Isom said the June quarter will be the sixth quarter in a row when unit revenue improves, the fourth in a row when American outperforms the industry and the third in a row for positive unit revenue.
United (UAL) reported recently that its April passenger load factor gained 260 basis points to 83.1%. The carrier boosted April capacity by 4% and saw 7.4% more revenue passenger miles.
Translation: Airplanes are crowded and becoming more so.
United expects a 2% to 3% second-quarter unit revenue gain. "We see similar trends for the industry and see improving traffic and higher unit revenues driving better earnings per share than is currently in consensus forecasts for the second quarter and full year 2017," CFRA analyst Jim Corridore wrote in a note issued Tuesday.
Airports are also busier.
On Monday, at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, American's second-largest hub, officials projected record local traffic. "We will break records this summer," Jack Christine, deputy aviation director, told reporters.
Starting Thursday, Christine said, the number of locally originating Charlotte passengers will reach 29,000 to 30,000 a day. Within weeks, the number should exceed the record 34,607 reached on April 7. In addition, approximately 100,000 American passengers connect daily in Charlotte.