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Summer Flight Forecast: Full, Uncomfortable

SmarterTravel

Airlines for America, a trade group representing the interests of U.S. airlines, today released its projection for summer air travel, forecasting the most air travelers in six years.

Between June 1 and August 31, A4A expects around 210 million travelers to take to the air on U.S. carriers, a 1.5 percent increase over the same period last year. International fliers will account for 30 million of this summer’s travelers, an all-time record.

The top five international destinations: Canada, Mexico, the U.K., Germany, and Japan.

The lobbying group attributes the anticipated increases to an improving economy, an increase in personal incomes, and affordable airfares.

Naturally, A4A welcomes the full flights: They mean robust profits for the airlines. The group would have us believe that it’s good for the airlines’ customers as well: “It’s a great time to fly, as air travel remains one of the best consumer bargains in America, given its superior speed and affordability. U.S. airlines are well prepared to accommodate the increased travel demand in the summer months by adding seats and continuing to make customer-focused investments in their product.”

Flyers facing long lines at security check points and shoehorned into “crusher” coach seats on long flights are likely to view those filled-to-capacity flights with considerably less glee.

With load factors (the percentage of seats occupied) likely to reach and possibly exceed 90 percent, the claustrophobia quotient will soar, as will tempers. Comfort? Not much, especially for the great majority of flyers traveling in coach.

What can you do to mitigate the discomfort? Short of splurging for a first-class ticket, there’s no magic bullet. Leverage your elite status to upgrade, or cash in miles for premium-cabin flights. Book an aisle seat whenever possible, and fly on carriers like JetBlue that feature an extra smidgen of legroom. Perhaps pay extra to upgrade to economy plus. But mostly, it’s a matter of grinning and keeping your claustrophobia in check.

Reader Reality Check

How do you cope with the extra hassle and stress of traveling during the summer months?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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