It’s the busiest day for air travel in years.

According to aviation analytics company Cirium, 22,759 flights are scheduled to depart in the U.S. Friday, with more than 2.96 million seats between them. The firm’s data shows that’s the most scheduled flying since before the pandemic slowdown in March and April 2020.

And the summer is only expected to get busier in the air. Cirium forecasts that more than 3 million seats will be flown in the U.S. on June 5 for the first time since Aug. 19, 2020. 

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Air traffic for this summer is expected to peak on July 21, when 23,481 domestic U.S. domestic flights are scheduled in the U.S., with 3.08 million seats, according to Cirium.

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Industry watchers and travelers should not be surprised by these numbers.

When reporting their first quarter earnings, airline executives all telegraphed strong booking demand through the summer and well into the fall, especially for long-haul international flights and those to leisure destinations.

Travelers have lamented high airfares on social media, but as executives pointed out, demand has remained strong, especially for premium leisure travel, so many passengers seem undeterred. 

According to Deloitte’s 2023 Summer Travel Survey, more than a third of flyers this summer are heading to international destinations, especially Europe, which is seeing 8% more travel from the U.S. compared to last summer. Meanwhile, nearby tropical destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean are seeing a drop in demand this summer as travelers head farther afield.

How to prepare for summer travel

If you’re flying out today, make sure to leave yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and make it to your gate. 

If you haven’t booked your summer travel yet, it’s a good idea to prepare for crowds and possible disruptions by giving yourself extra breathing room in your itinerary through longer connection times, and considering buying travel insurance in case something goes wrong. 

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Zach Wichter is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at [email protected]

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Today's the busiest day for flying in years: Here's how many people are expected to fly

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