U.S. airlines will carry 24.6 million passengers during the Thanksgiving holiday season, 1.5 percent more than last year amid an improved economy, the carriers’ trade group forecast.

The increase is about 31,000 passengers daily for the 12- day period from Nov. 21 through Dec. 2, Airlines for America said in a statement today. The busiest day will be Nov. 30, the Sunday after the Nov. 27 holiday, the Washington-based group said.

“An expanding U.S. economy, rising personal incomes, employment growth and lower energy prices are driving growth in demand,” John Heimlich, the group’s chief economist, said in the statement.

The Thanksgiving travel increase adds to a strong year for the U.S. airlines. Through three quarters, the nine largest carriers reported a 51 percent increase in combined net income to $6.8 billion and a 5.7 percent profit margin, the group said.

With lower fuel costs and strong demand, the carriers have had cash for capital spending, which has exceeded $10 billion so far this year, the highest rate of reinvestment in 13 years, according to the trade group.

“Improving finances are enabling airlines to add seats to the marketplace and reinvest in the customer experience — in the cabin, at the airport and online,” Heimlich said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer Kaplan in New York at jkaplan84@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net

Tags: holidays, money
Photo Credit: A typical Thanksgiving holiday scene at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Tami Chappell / Reuters