Skip to content

Airlines gear up for busiest holiday travel season since the pandemic

Dec. 14, 2022
3 min read
plane at terminal
Airlines gear up for busiest holiday travel season since the pandemic
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

With Christmas only a couple of weeks away, airlines are now gearing up for what they anticipate will be the busiest holiday travel period since the pandemic.

While the 2022 Thanksgiving travel period became the busiest following the pandemic, airlines are expecting the Christmas and New Year's holiday travel season will see even more people taking to the skies. United Airlines, for example, forecasts 8.3 million people will fly with the airline, an increase of 1.9 million more travelers compared to 2021. The Chicago-based carrier also anticipates that Jan. 2 will be its busiest travel day, with more than 480,000 passengers.

Airlines for America, the trade group that represents most big U.S. carriers — including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United — emphasized that airlines have made significant improvements to their operations since suffering operational reliability issues earlier this year after adjusting their schedules and hiring more staff. Since the peak of the pandemic, Sharon Pinkerton, the senior vice president of policy at A4A, said airlines have collectively hired 106,000 more people, and are now adding 4,600 employees a month.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG's free biweekly Aviation newsletter.

Pinkerton also said airlines now have the operational capability to handle the increased demand in travel, following a summer defined by endless lines at airports and a soaring number of flight delays and cancellations.

"2022 was a challenging and difficult year," Pinkerton said. "The operating environment was tough, but starting in September, we turned a corner. I believe we are now poised for success and importantly, growth, now that we've stabilized the operation."

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Thanksgiving was a far contrast from the chaotic summer travel season, with a travel period that was a lot smoother for airlines, with minimal disruptions. Even though severe weather caused some flight delays in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest, only a small number of flights were canceled.

Pinkerton added that October, November and December are also shaping up to have the lowest cancellation rates of the entire year. And in December, cancellation rates ranged from 0.2% to 1.2%, despite some severe weather, according to Pinkerton. The summer, on the other hand, averaged a cancellation rate of around 2.2% from Memorial Day to Sept. 1.

A4A officials also offered some tips heading into the holiday travel season, such as allowing plenty of time to get to the airport and to go through security checkpoints. And for the holidays, A4A suggests that travelers wrap their gifts after reaching their destination.

Despite the challenges airlines faced in 2022, Pinkerton said they have a generally rosy outlook for 2023.

"We're turning to 2023 with a renewed sense of optimism, a focus on maintaining our operational reliability, with an eye toward growth," Pinkerton said. "The good news is that the future is very promising because people do want to travel."

Traveling this holiday season? See these for more travel tips:

Featured image by NATHAN HOWARD/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best for earning alternative rewards for travel purchases
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review
Apply for Credit One Bank Wander® Card
at Credit One Bank's secure site

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5XEarn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
1XEarn 1x points on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 10,000 Bonus Points
Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

Fair/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

Pros

  • This card has no foreign transaction fees and earns up to 10 points per dollar on travel purchases through the Credit One Bank travel partner site.

Cons

  • While cardholders can earn a significant amount of points on travel purchases, there isn't any way to redeem points from the Wander Card for maximum value (beyond 1 cent per point).
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for Credit One Bank Wander® Card
at Credit One Bank's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for earning alternative rewards for travel purchases
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5XEarn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
1XEarn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

    Earn 10,000 Bonus Points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    Fair/Good

Why We Chose It

The revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

Pros

  • This card has no foreign transaction fees and earns up to 10 points per dollar on travel purchases through the Credit One Bank travel partner site.

Cons

  • While cardholders can earn a significant amount of points on travel purchases, there isn't any way to redeem points from the Wander Card for maximum value (beyond 1 cent per point).
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees