Left Field just came back from a two-trip week, and saw the downturn first hand. On a quartet of AirTran flights, we saw empty seats up front in business class on three of the four segments, and quite a few empty seats in the back on one flight; on United, we saw one plane at at least a 100% load factor - and another at much less, with only half the seats up front taken - and some by so-called 'non-revs' or freeloaders. All of which is a thoroughly unscientific, totally anecdotal way of saying things could be a lot better. But don't take just our word for it. Read on for some far more precise predictions that will leave your Christmas outlook a bit bleak.
Some hard evidence comes from ARC, the industry clearinghouse that used to be called the Airlines Reporting Company. This is the airline-owned processing centre that does settlements of all travel agent sales, including corporate travel departments. For November, ARC totals were down by more than 20% on domestic sales. Our friends at ABC News posted a little blog, which we call to your attention because it quotes Left Field. They're looking at an ATA prediction that holiday travellers will be down by almost 10%, which can be slightly counterintuitive if you're flying a jam-packed plane. Read on for a full explanation.