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Airlines expect small increase in Thanksgiving travel

About 27.3 million passengers will travel worldwide on U.S. airlines over the Thanksgiving travel period, up about 2.5 percent from last year, according to a report from industry trade group Airlines for America.

The most hectic day in the 12-day period spanning Nov. 18 through Nov. 29 is expected to be Nov. 27, with 2.81 million passengers, while Thanksgiving Day — Nov. 24 — will see the fewest fliers, with 1.51 million, Airlines for America said Wednesday.

To accommodate the projected 55,000 additional passengers per day, airlines have added 74,000 seats each day with larger planes and extra flights, the airline industry group said.

The trade group attributed the increase in Thanksgiving travel to lower airfares. Across nine publicly traded U.S. airlines that have reported third-quarter financial results, passenger fares per mile are down 5.6 percent compared with last year, according to the group's report.

Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was tied for the fourth-highest rate in the cancellation of flights scheduled to arrive over the Thanksgiving holidays, according to a MileCards.com report that analyzed data on U.S. flights at the 50 busiest U.S. airports.

Over the last five years, 0.7 percent of flights arriving at O'Hare flights between the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and the Monday after were canceled, according to MileCards.com.

Passengers are much more likely to have a flight canceled in the days leading up to Christmas and New Year's, the report found. At O'Hare, 4.2 percent of flights arriving between Dec. 20 and 31 were canceled during the same five-year period. Across both holidays, only Newark Liberty International Airport and New York's LaGuardia and Kennedy airports had higher flight cancellation rates.

lzumbach@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @laurenzumbach

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