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Airline travel expected to be higher this Thanksgiving

U.S. airlines are expected to carry 24.6 million passengers during the Thanksgiving travel period, slightly higher than last year, according to Airlines for America.

The industry group predicts a 1.5 percent increase during the 12-day holiday period from Nov. 21 through Dec. 2. The busiest travel day will be Nov. 30.

“An expanding U.S. economy, rising personal incomes, employment growth and lower energy prices are driving growth in demand,” Airlines for America chief economist John Heimlich said in a statement.

Daily passenger volumes are expected to range from 1.36 million to 2.61 million. But the forecast is 6 percent lower than the 2006 and 2007 Thanksgiving travel periods, the most recent peak years, the industry group said.

The busiest airports will be Atlanta, Los Angeles and Chicago O’Hare, with Dallas/Fort Worth as the fourth-busiest.

As the influx of holiday travelers nears, DFW reported a 10 percent increase in passengers in September, with 5.25 million moving through the airport. American Airlines, the airport’s largest airline tenant, had a 9.7 percent increase in passengers for the month compared with September 2013.

However, airport Chief Executive Sean Donohue cautioned that the exceptional performance was likely due to the fire at the Federal Aviation Administration center in Chicago that caused traffic diversions and delays in September.

“It restricted traffic for several weeks and that traffic had to flow somewhere else, and we think we benefited from that,” Donohue told airport board members at their monthly meeting Thursday.

This week, the airport revealed that it had a record year in fiscal 2014, which ended Sept. 30, with 62.9 million passengers. That was a 4.4 percent increase from fiscal 2013.