Airlines gear up for summer travel surge as millions fly for Memorial Day weekend

AAA: “We are warning folks that they could see some of the busiest airports they have seen in years.”
More than one million Virginians are expected to take a flight over Memorial Day weekend.
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 4:08 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - Inside Richmond International Airport, Lori and Stephen Drake walked to their gate, ready to board their flight to their Memorial Day weekend destination.

“We’re going down to Pensacola, Florida, to see some close friends, go to a high school graduation and get away from the storm,” said Lori Drake.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Richmond International Airport estimates 70,000 travelers will come through their terminal, up more than 10% from what officials reported a year ago.

Airports across the country are seeing a similar surge. AAA predicts more than three million people will fly to their destinations over Memorial Day weekend, expected to exceed what was seen before the pandemic.

“We are warning folks that they could see some of the busiest airports they have seen in years, perhaps the busiest airports that they have seen ever,” said AAA spokesperson Morgan Dean.

Airlines also promise travelers a smoother experience after 20% of flights across the United States were delayed last year and early this year due to weather, flight volume, equipment and staffing issues. Airlines have added thousands of new pilots, ground crews, and flight attendants to gear up for the summer travel surge.

As you make your travel plans, AAA advises people to book earlier flights.

“Earlier flights tend to have fewer delays and cancellations than flights later in the day, and there are many more opportunities to rebook on something during the day,” Dean said.

In addition, know your “fly rights,” as listed on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website.

“A consumer is entitled to a refund if the airline cancels a flight regardless of the reason and if that consumer chooses not to travel,” Dean said.

With the summer travel surge on the horizon, the Drakes are looking forward to their flights with a positive outlook.

“The reality is we’re seasoned travelers. We’ve been doing this for years, so we know things happen,” said Stephen Drake. “If they happen, they happen. That’s why you just approach it with that positive attitude.”

Dean also advises travelers to download an app from their airline to get the latest flight times and information.

Dean advises following these steps if the weather forces you to rebook your flight.

“If you’re trying to reach the airline by phone, reaching out to rewards numbers or international travel numbers can sometimes help you get past some of the crowds that are calling the U.S. numbers to try and rebook,” Dean said.