Orlando airport expects Labor Day holiday to be busier than 2016

In the hierarchy of summer travel holidays, Labor Day weekend lags behind Memorial Day and the Fourth of July for the busiest travel times.

Still, Orlando International Airport officials are expecting about 943,000 passengers to fly in and out during the nine-day travel window — a 3 percent uptick from last year’s holiday.

The latest local predictions come as the state has seen a record number of tourists this year.

On Thursday — the day Orlando airport officials consider the start of the Labor Day travel period — about 111,558 passengers are expected to use the airport, the busiest day of the holiday.

The Labor Day weekend travel windows ends Sept. 6.

For drivers, gas prices are on the rise in the wake of Hurricane Harvey bringing torrential rains that are still plaguing Gulf states Texas and Louisiana, which are key to oil and gasoline production. The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded stood at $2.40 Wednesday, 9 cents higher than a month ago. Prices in Metro Orlando are relatively flat month over month despite fluctuation during that time.

“Prices will likely rise nearly country wide heading into Labor Day, from rural towns in the Rockies to major cities in the Midwest and West Coast- nearly everyone will feel a bit of a pinch at the pump from Harvey,” said Patrick DeHaan, analyst at GasBuddy.

As students return to school and the summer season ends, Central Florida’s percentage of business travelers grows. Orlando County Convention Center has booked more than 30 shows this fall and projects attendance to exceed 200,000 people during the season, according to a spokeswoman.

Among the largest shows are expected to be Surf Expo, Microsoft Ignite, International Association of Amusement Parks and Grace Hopper Celebration, which is an event for women in computer fields that advertises Melinda Gates as a keynote speaker.

Across the country, an estimated 16.1 million passengers will fly during this holiday — a 5 percent increase from last year’s Labor Day weekend, according to Airlines for America, a Washington-based industry trade organization.

The rise is due to good economic times for households and low ticket prices, the organization said.

“Accordingly, airlines are adding 133,000 seats per day across their networks to accommodate the expected increase in demand,” Airlines for American said in a news release, adding it did not collect travel numbers for Florida.

In the first half of 2017, 60.7 million tourists visited Florida — a 4 percent increase from the same time period on 2016. But most of the growth was spurred by American travelers — not international visitors who are coveted by the tourism industry because they typically stay longer and spend more.

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