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Beckham Sharp, 2, comes out the slide on June 1, 2024, at LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Grapevine, Texas. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning ɫ̳/TNS)
Beckham Sharp, 2, comes out the slide on June 1, 2024, at LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Grapevine, Texas. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning ɫ̳/TNS)
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Alexandra Skores | (TNS) The Dallas Morning ɫ̳

Carson Shofner and his husband were heading to Costa Rica for a relaxing trip on  on the morning of May 28.

But their plane didn’t leave Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport until May 29 at 7 a.m. It’s a situation many passengers dealt with after weeks of steady thunderstorms cascaded through North Texas, delaying hundreds of flights just as summer travel was about to take off.

“We were never offered to change flights or any sort of reimbursement,” Shofner wrote in an email from Costa Rica. “And flights to San Jose, Costa Rica, are relatively sparse, so any attempt to change would’ve been thousands of dollars.”

He’s one of many summer travelers who were hoping for a smooth trip this travel season.

Airlines, airports and partners like the are expecting a record number of travelers. At DFW Airport, home to , that’s nearly 25 million passengers between May and July. At Dallas Love Field, home to Southwest Airlines, nearly 190,000 travelers were expected to pass through the airport on Memorial Day weekend alone.

 which represents major U.S. airlines, predicts a 6.3% increase in passengers from this summer to last. From June 1 to August 31, that’s over 271 million people who will fly on a major U.S. airline. Last year, that figure was 255 million people.

Shofner and his husband live in Dallas and he posts frequently on his social media and has 67,000 followers on TikTok and 21,300 followers on Instagram. He posted a video to TikTok to talk about his experience of waiting for his flight to take off, from crew changes to communication challenges and delays that took up what could have been an entire day at a beach.

That video has almost 1 million views as of June 4.

And summer has barely even started.

Where to and how much?

Airfares might cool down for some travelers this year.

In its 2024 summer outlook, travel booking app Hopper reported domestic airfare for June, July and August averaging $305 per ticket, down 6% from this time last year. Of course, those numbers fluctuate the longer a traveler waits to book their seat on the plane.

This will be the first year that prices have dropped year over year since 2020.

Airfare prices, tied with fun events this summer, will help bring in many people to North Texas and allow local businesses to benefit from the uptick in visitors this summer.

One of the hot spots to check out, especially as travelers try to stay cool in the Texas heat, is the . The attraction has everything from Lego-themed rides, 4-D cinema experiences and even a “mini land” of D-FW made of a million and a half Lego bricks. Travelers can also see DFW Airport made out of Legos.

“There’s a lot of daytrippers…some overnighters definitely in the summer,” said Jordan Thacker, marketing coordinator at Legoland Discovery Center in Grapevine.

During the summer, the Legoland Discovery Center can see 1,500 to 2,000 guests daily.

There are also new options for lodging all over North Texas. Chase Chasteen, general manager of Le Méridien Fort Worth Downtown is looking at a late June or July opening. The hotel, even though it hasn’t opened yet, is seeing “strong demand” around the major sports entertainment happening this summer.

“Travelers are really looking more now than ever to stay in a hotel that really authentically honors its locale,” Chasteen said, noting the 188 rooms, rooftop bar and pool, at the hotel.

Those sporting events will keep Dallas-Fort Worth busy as summer heats up.

This month, the Dallas Mavericks will play the Boston Celtics for an NBA championship. Later in the month, the CONMEBOL Copa America 2024 soccer games will play at AT&T Stadium, with games on June 21, 23 and July 5.

From July 12 to July 16, the MLB All-Star Game and its associated events like the Home Run Derby will be in town. On July 17, No. 1 WNBA draft pick Caitlin Clark of the Indiana Fever will play against the Dallas Wings in Arlington.

Add that into all the summer concerts taking place in Arlington, American Airlines Center, Toyota Music Factory and surrounding venues, D-FW will have quite a bit to offer when it comes to attractions.

What does it take?

Despite inflationary pressures, the intent to travel and spend on flights and lodging remains high, 

“The intent to travel is pretty, pretty steady,” said Matt Soderberg, U.S. airline practice leader at Deloitte.

One in five people, he said, plan to spend more this year than they did last year on travel.  also found that 43% of air travelers are willing to pay for more comfortable flight experiences, up from last year.

Airlines and airports may be at the forefront of everyone’s mind regarding disruptions this summer travel season.

Still, it is a team effort, according to Keith Jeffries, former TSA Federal Security Director at Los Angeles International Airport. It’s all hands on deck when you have record numbers of travelers passing through.

Between May 17 and Sept. 3, American expects more than 72 million passengers. The Fort Worth-based carrier is flying more seats than any other summer, with 10% more departures than last summer. American is also flying to eight destinations in summer 2024 that the airline had not served in summer 2023, including Albany, N.Y.; Appleton, Wisc.; Manhattan, Kan.; Redmond, Ore.; St. George, Utah; Tulum and Veracruz, Mexico; and Barcelona.

This year,  top five busiest days to travel will be July 8, July 25, July 29, Aug. 1 and July 7, based on the number of flights and the number of seats available, according to aviation analytics firm Cirium.

“DFW and North Texas, travelers that should have confidence flying through DFW (Airport),” said David Seymour, chief operating officer at American in an interview with The Dallas Morning ɫ̳ last month. “… It’s our largest operation and provides so much connectivity for our customers to be able to connect and go in just about anywhere they want.”

between May 24 and Sept. 2. The Dallas-based airline is flying an average of 4,112 flights a day, with July 7 as the peak travel day for the airline with 4,452 scheduled flights and over 641,000 passengers.

But industry analysts have a different take on who’s truly performing well heading into the summer.

Analysts at Melius Research unveiled guidance this week that while the airline industry remains in a “flux,” competitors to the North Texas airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, come out on top. The researchers point to strong indicators like  for the second quarter,  and budget air carriers refining their products.

“We remain dug in on our view that Delta and United are the best way to play the capacity-constrained environment as they play the strengths of the market — premium, loyalty, international and corporate travel,” the June 3 report read. “At the same time, the remainder of the industry is forced to make difficult choices and needs to walk the low end of the fare bucket up, further benefiting Delta and United.”

Delivery delays, Boeing

One uncertainty that looms over the entire travel industry is Boeing.

The manufacturer has faced constant problems since January when an  door plug  left a gaping hole in the side of a Boeing 737 Max 9 fuselage with passengers onboard. The incident went viral and leaders at both Southwest and American have called out Boeing to get it together.

Since this incident, and years of safety concerns like the 2019 grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 8 after two crashes killed all passengers on board each plane, Boeing has been in the public eye.

. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner delivery delays made the carrier adjust routes for the second half of the year and first quarter of 2025.

American now expects to receive three 787 Dreamliners this year, down from six, cutting down on the number of planes available for long-haul flights.

Southwest also lowered its expectations for aircraft deliveries from plane maker Boeing Co. as well. Where it now expects 20 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft deliveries in 2024, it previously anticipated 46.

Most union contracts are in the rearview

One stressor that travelers and airlines don’t have to think too much about is the ratification of labor agreements among workers.

Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, the union representing American’s pilots, said the airline is more prepared this year than in previous summers to handle its massive summer schedule.

The Allied Pilots Association . Southwest’s pilots, represented by the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, a few months later.  according to aviation consultant Kit Darby.

 represented by Transport Workers Union Local 556, voted in favor of a new contract.

However, one major airline workgroup in North Texas remains without a contract. Flight attendants at American, represented by the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, as well as United Airlines, are without collective bargaining deals after years of negotiations.

In a memo to flight attendants on May 31, the union wrote that after two weeks of negotiations with the National Mediation Board, the union’s members should prepare to strike.

“Flight attendants are always there for our passengers,” said Julie Hedrick, Association of Professional Flight Attendants president. “We will make sure our passengers get to where they need to be. We do our job professionally. The flight attendants, they are very frustrated, but they, of course, are going to do the job they need to do until this is done. When I say until this is done, (I mean) until we either have an agreement or until we go on strike.”

Hedrick said strike booklets for flight attendants will be in the mail very soon and the union’s website will be updated with more information. . The last one occurred in 2010 with Spirit Airlines pilots after disputes over pay.

“Summertime — we’ve talked about you know what clouds are hanging over the summer season,” Tajer said. “It’s not the clouds we’re worried about. We can see those. We can maneuver around those. It’s the bright sunlight because you don’t realize you’re burned until it’s too late.”

©2024 The Dallas Morning ɫ̳. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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