December 4, 2023 / Riskline Informer

December Travel Outlook: What to expect when travelling in December

Globe. What to expect when travelling in December

by Lorena Peña

No matter how early you book your flights, travel in December can be the most stressful and challenging experience. Tourists, business travellers and TMCs planning their trips in December must deal with a higher volume of passengers moving worldwide. Especially around the Christmas holidays, as it is one of the busiest times.

Factors fueling travel disruptions in December

The weather normally plays a primary role in impacting travel operations from December until late March. Flight cancellations, short-term suspensions of rail services or ground stops are more common due to winter storms, blizzards and icing. 

El Niño phenomenon, which has been present this year, will also have certain effects during this winter. Southern areas of the United States and southern Europe, will likely record wetter conditions than usual. This fact is not surprising given that 2023 has already been defined, with near certainty, as the warmest year on record. 

This year, 48% of Americans have expressed their intention to travel from late November through mid-January, while 68% of Europeans started travelling in October 2023 and plan to continue throughout March 2024.  

Long waiting times are more likely to happen at airports, particularly on the busiest days like  22, 23 and 30 December. And, within the Schengen Area, several land and maritime border crossings will see operations slowed down due to internal border controls. 

Some major strikes will also impact travel plans during the month. From transportation workers to airlines and railways officials, multiple strikes are going to affect operations at airports and rail services. For example, in Belgium (rail unions will strike on 5-7 December) and in Spain (security staff in Alicante-Elche airport will partially strike on 22-31 December). The German railway driver union announced possible strikes over the Christmas period.

How conflicts around the world will impact travel during the holidays?

Security-related issues have severely impacted travel operations in recent months and are projected to continue into December. The availability of flights to the Middle East will remain very limited until late 2023 due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.  

Major airlines, including Lufthansa Group, British Airways and United Airlines have suspended or severely reduced routes in the region. Flight rerouting remains in place due to the extreme risks for aircrafts to fly over the region. Delayed journeys continue also due to the ongoing closure of the Russian airspace. 

Many countries have raised terrorist alerts and, since 7 October, numerous reports of bomb alerts have caused evacuations at several airports worldwide. Heightened security measures will be in place at airports, train and subway stations throughout December.

During the holidays, security measures will be reinforced near dates of Jewish and Christian festivities. Places of worship and public gatherings will almost certainly face similar heightened security. Pro-Palestine and Pro-Israel demonstrations, causing traffic and movement disruptions in major cities, will probably continue.

Any risk or disruption may be just around the corner when travelling in December. However, anticipating inconveniences is possible thanks to Riskline’s alerts. Our team on coverage 7/24 can assist TMCs and business travellers in determining the viability of traveling during this time of the year.

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