The Christmas rush: 2.5m expected to fly on busiest travel day of the holidays


Prepare for long lines on the Friday before Christmas, which is shaping up to be the busiest traveling day of the holiday season.

The Airlines for America (A4A) website predicts that 2.5 million people across the country will take flights that day, KSTP reports, because for those with vacation time over Christmas week, it will be the first opportunity to get away to see their families.

"Most people who are traveling for the holidays want to maximize the time with their family," Steve Loucks, of Plymouth-based Travel Leaders, told KSTP. "People like to typically leave as soon as they possibly can. So the 19th is a Friday, there you go."

The A4A expects that 45 million people will fly on U.S airlines over the holiday period – from December 17 through January 4 – and says airlines are adding seats to the market to meet demand by using larger aircraft, WIVB reports.

Planes are expected to be between 80 and 90 percent full over the period, with the lightest travel days Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Minnesotans going by road this Christmas will benefit from slumping oil prices, which is slashing costs at the gas pumps.

Gas prices are currently at their lowest point in four years in Minnesota, according to WCCO, with the current average standing at just $2.53 per gallon, dropping 40 cents in just a month.

Experts say the drop in prices is being caused by a combination of lower crude oil prices driven down by high supply and weakening demand, as well as the rising value of the dollar.

But the drop in oil prices won't be passed on to airline passengers, KSTP says, until 2015, when carriers are expected to cut fare prices by 5 percent, excluding surcharges and taxes.

Delta's class changes could lead to cheaper domestic tickets

Delta Airlines has revealed an overhaul of its cabin configuration that will allow passengers to choose between five different classes of ticket.

Starting on March 2015, the carrier – which has a major hub at Minneapolis-St. Paul International – will offer a wider range of seating options, CNBC reports.

Its cheapest option, "Basic Economy," is the no-frills choice that is available only on domestic flights as Delta looks to compete with discount carriers like Spirit Airlines. Passengers have no right to select their seats, get refunds for unused tickets, fly standby or upgrade to a higher class.

This is followed by "Main Cabin," which is the same as basic economy except customers can choose their seats, make flight changes, and upgrade to a higher class.

The highest economy level, the Star Tribune reports, will be "Delta Comfort+," which offers more legroom, exclusive overhead storage space, priority boarding and complimentary alcohol.

The first of its two business classes is "First Class," which allows passengers on the plane first, gives them reserved storage space, complimentary alcohol before the plane takes off, and access to power outlets and free premium drinks, snacks and meals throughout the flight.

And finally, "Delta One" is a re-branding of its "Business Elite" class. It is available only on long-haul international flights and certain East Coast to West Coast routes.

It is the same as First Class, except passengers also get access to Delta Sky Clubs at airports, get a Tumi travel kit with skincare products, noise-reduction headsets, and a chef-curated menu with wine pairings.

Furthermore, the seats recline into a bed, with Westin bedding provided.

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