U.S. airlines, travel industry gear up for Labor Day weekend surge

Travellers during the labor day weekend in San Fransisco

By Priyamvada C

(Reuters) - U.S. airlines and airports have geared up for a busy weekend ahead of the Labor Day holiday as travelers plan to jet off to international locations and cooler destinations.

More than 20 million passengers will fly out of U.S. airports between Thursday and Tuesday, a 14% increase from the same time a year earlier, according to travel booking app Hopper, continuing the boom in international travel in recent months.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expects to screen more than 14 million passengers between Sept. 1 and Sept. 6.

"We anticipate this Labor Day holiday weekend will be busy, with passenger volumes nearly 11% higher than last year—volumes that already exceeded 2019 Labor Day holiday travel volumes," TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement.

U.S. travelers have been flying overseas with greater frequency in recent months, taking advantage of flexible work arrangements, the end of coronavirus testing mandates, and a strong U.S. dollar.

International bookings for flights, hotels, rental cars, and cruises for the Labor Day weekend were up 44% from a year ago, according to travel group AAA, while domestic bookings rose 4% compared with last year.

Travel operators with a larger international footprint have reported strong earnings, with companies ranging from Airbnb to Marriott forecasting strong future demand due to robust global travel and higher room rates.

"U.S. room rates were up 2.5% for the first 26 days in August and we expect similar rate increases year over year for the long weekend," said Jan Freitag, national director of hospitality analytics at CoStar Group.

AAA said Vancouver, Rome, London, Dublin, and Paris were the top five destinations for the long weekend.

Domestic cruise bookings also look strong, up 19% compared with a year earlier, AAA estimated. Airfare for domestic getaways is averaging $226 per ticket, down 11% from last year and 20% lower from the Labor Day weekend in 2019, according to Hopper.

While analysts expect demand to hold up this weekend, hurricane Idalia has wrecked havoc in certain regions in the United States, upending travel plans for thousands.

More than 1,500 flights were delayed on Friday and 60 flights were canceled, according to flight-tracking website Flightaware.com as Hurricane Idalia slammed into the Big Bend region of Florida earlier this week.

(Reporting by Priyamvada C in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Doyinsola Oladipo in New York; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)