by Matt Alderton | November 18, 2014
Most Americans agree: Thanks to massive congestion at U.S. airports, holiday travel is the worst kind of travel there is. And yet, it could become the new normal at many U.S. airports within a matter of years, according to the U.S. Travel Association, which today released an update to its 2013 "Thanksgiving in the Skies" study.

Last year's study examined passenger volume at the nation's top 30 airports and concluded that a combination of increased travel demand and underinvestment in air-travel infrastructure will make Thanksgiving-like travel a year-round reality at all of them within a decade. This year's updated research suggests that it could actually happen much sooner -- within six years instead of 10.

"If you hate traveling around Thanksgiving because of the crowds and chaos, unfortunately we're well within sight of a time when it's going to be like that every time you head to the airport," U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. "Political leaders need to understand the magnitude of this problem. It's not just flyers who suffer because our air travel system cannot keep up with demand; it's the entire U.S. economy."

According to U.S. Travel's analysis, six of the 30 largest U.S. airports were already experiencing congestion levels equal to the Wednesday before Thanksgiving one day per week in the average week last year. This year, the number of airports already at that congestion level has more than doubled to 13. As a result, U.S. Travel forecasts, all 30 airports in the study will now experience Thanksgiving-like congestion one day per week within the next six years, and 20 of them will reach Thanksgiving congestion levels two days per week within five years.

New Jersey's Newark Airport, Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Honolulu International Airport will start to experience Thanksgiving-like traffic two days per week next year -- all sooner than expected. Logan International Airport in Boston will get there in 2016.

Worst off are Chicago Midway Airport and McCarran International in Las Vegas, where every day will feel like Thanksgiving beginning next year -- both about a decade sooner than previously forecast.

"The U.S. air travel system was once the envy of the world, but now there is not a single U.S. airport ranked in the top 25 worldwide," Dow continued. "Major investments in air travel infrastructure are desperately needed to restore service to even basic levels of adequacy, let alone cope with the expected coming demand."