Airlines expect 3.5 percent increase in holiday passenger traffic

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Elizabeth Sarnowski and daughters Sofia (left) and Stella, both 5, arrive from Cleveland at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport to spend the holiday with relatives in Atlanta. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

U.S. airlines expect to handle 51 million passengers over the holiday season from Dec. 15 through Jan. 4, according to an airline industry group.

Airlines for America said that’s up 3.5 percent year-over-year. The group counts Dec. 15 through Jan. 4 as the holiday travel period.

The busiest days of the 21-day period will be Thursday Dec. 21, Friday Dec. 22 and Tuesday Dec. 26. The lightest travel days are expected to be Saturday Dec. 16, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, according to Airlines for America.

The airline lobbying group said 88 percent of passengers traveling in U.S. domestic markets in 2016 had airlines to choose from other than the three big legacy carriers: Delta, United and American.

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Before you fly, check out these AJC articles:

Traveling during the holidays? Navigate Atlanta’s airport like a pro with our guide

Hartsfield-Jackson to begin heavy lifting of canopy construction

Hartsfield-Jackson Thanksgiving crowds fail to set record at world’s busiest airport

Hartsfield-Jackson aims for more precise security wait time estimates

Long waits frustrate Uber users at Hartsfield-Jackson’s new pickup zones

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