Outlook: President's Day return travel
Cold frontal passage could bring Monday evening showers to Mid-Atlantic, but a relatively tranquil setup overall
It’s been a minute. We figured we’d use the post-holiday travel doldrums to stay heads down on building (even Tim—thanks to chatGPT). But while screened travelers unsurprisingly turned downwards in the first week of the new year, January was remarkable for looking pretty close to fully recovered.
Though February betrayed some weakness, yesterday’s TSA throughput (2.50 million travelers) compared very favorably to President Day’s Friday in 2019 (2.51 million screened—just a 0.1% difference).
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So we figured we dust off our template to take a peek at this weekend’s return travel. Go travel was hampered by ground delay programs at EWR, LGA and LAS (plus a DCA ground stop as well as some ski and Mexico AFP’s), but hardly impassable. Thankfully, Sunday and Monday look to be relatively tranquil across the national airspace system.
Sunday, February 19
Because it doesn’t “see” the holiday, our Holt-Winters model isn’t particularly useful in forecasting traveler volumes this weekend. But we can still glean some patterns from last year (and 2020): We’d estimate between 2.20 and 2.31 million travelers screened.
Offshore high pressure continues to steer moisture towards the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies. While not part of our template, we’ll note that probabilities for snow top out at 1% for Seattle (SEA), per the short-range ensemble forecast.
ORD has 127 flights scheduled to arrive in the 6 pm hour1 against an optimal arrival rate of 114; this has been the case since mid-January and EDCT’s have only been required for 5.2% of scheduled arrivals in this hour (in line with the rest of the day2). Somewhat similarly, DCA has 33 scheduled arrivals in the 9 am and 9 pm hours and the Runway 19 operation tops out at a 32 rate; with winds forecast around or above 10 knots and veering from south to west through the period, we’d expect a 19 operation to prevail, though for any delays to be generally imperceptible.
Monday, February 20
We estimate TSA will screen between 2.47 and 2.49 million travelers, which would make for a busier day than the '22-'23 holiday high-water mark (2.44 million from Dec 163—though there was certainly a depressionary effect from Southwest’s meltdown).
Low pressure tracking across eastern Canada will send a cold front across the mid-Atlantic Monday evening: there could be some spotty showers ahead of the frontal passage, though moisture is limited.
We should have a product update to write about in the next couple weeks! We’ll also try to write a couple outlooks for Spring Break travel.
From the December 6, 2022 OAG snapshot.
For hours 6a-9p, excluding 6p, 3.8% of ORD arrivals have been assigned EDCTS since January 12; arrivals in the 4p and 5p hours have caught EDCT’s more frequently than arrivals in the 6p hour.
We’re including just the year-end holiday period in this accounting, not Thanksgiving (when a maximum of 2.56 million were screened on the Sunday after Thanksgiving).