NEW YORK (AP) — There's not much good news for fliers this Thanksgiving. Airports will be packed, planes will have few — if any — empty seats and you might sit apart from a loved one, unless you pay extra.
During the 12-day Thanksgiving travel period, 25.1 million people are projected to fly, an increase of 1.5 percent from last year, according to Airlines for America, the industry's trade and lobbying group.
That would make this the busiest year since 2007, when an estimated 26 million people flew over the holiday period.
The busiest travel day will be Sunday, Dec. 1, with an estimated 2.56 million passengers, followed by Wednesday, Nov. 27, with 2.42 million passengers. In case you were wondering, the slowest travel day is Thanksgiving itself, with just 1.44 million people expected to fly.
But don't fret, there are some things you can do — in some cases paying a little extra — to make your trip more pleasant, or to at least buffer the damage if something goes wrong.
— If you miss your connection — or bad weather causes delays — the airlines will automatically rebook you on the next available flight. However, with flights at near capacity, the next open seat could be several days away.
— Don't like the flight you're rebooked on? Get in line to speak to a customer service representative. But also, call the airline directly. If the phone lines are jammed, try the airline's overseas numbers. You'll pay long-distance rates, but might not have to wait. Finally, consider sending a Tweet.
— Consider buying a one-day pass to the airline lounge. For one thing, there are usually free drinks and light snacks. But the real secret to the lounges is that the airline staffs them with some of its best — and friendliest — ticket agents. The lines are shorter and these agents are magically able to find empty seats. One-day passes typically cost $50.
— If you and your loved ones don't have seats together already, and don't want to pay an extra $9 to $99 domestically for a "premium" coach seat, it's very likely that you will sit apart.