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Airlines expect millions of passengers this holiday season

Southwest Airlines (LUV) trimmed its schedule for November and December and has beefed up staffing ahead of the expected Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday travel rush. "So our reserves are over 20% for our crews, which helps you operate every single day," Incoming CEO Bob Jordan told Yahoo Finance Live.

That 20% is almost double the number Southwest had in place in early October when bad weather and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic delays cascaded into a logistics nightmare for the airline and customers as it canceled more than 2,000 flights .

Southwest is the largest domestic carrier in the United States and Jordan, an executive vice president, is part of the leadership team making sure the cancellation nightmare doesn’t happen again.

"It’s all about reliability. Our customers need to get to where they’re going and they need to depend on us and they can depend on us," he said, citing what he calls a terrific responsibility, "because they rely on us to get them to things that matter in their lives, to weddings and to visit family on holidays."

Millions of Americans are counting on it. Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) data shows roughly 2.6 million people passed through airport security every day during the Thanksgiving holiday in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic decimated the airline industry. It was about 2.5 million passengers each day during Christmas that year.

"Our bookings for the holidays are basically following the curve that they followed in 2019, which gives us a lot of assurance that there’s demand there and you’ll see load factors that are pretty typical," Jordan said. COVID-19 ‘just tired of hearing about it’

Cowen Managing Director and airline analyst Helane Becker is forecasting a strong holiday travel season because people will want to avoid missing another year of holidays with family especially as COVID-19 case counts fall in the U.S.

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