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Summer air travel headed upward, U.S. airlines say

May 16, 2011|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • The number of summer travelers on U.S. air carriers over the last decade.
The number of summer travelers on U.S. air carriers over the last decade. (www.airlines.org )

Expect more crowded skies this summer when U.S. airlines will see a slight bump in traffic from modest gains in domestic air travel and a record high for international travel, according to a forecast released Monday by the Air Transport Assn. of America.

Though the predictions represent a rally for the industry, air travel hasn't yet rebounded to prerecession levels.

From June through August, more than 206 million passengers are expected to board flights by U.S. airlines,  or 1.5% more than in summer 2010. However, that figure remains lower than the high point of more than 217 million passengers in summer 2007, before the economy tanked.

The number of international passenger carried by U.S. airlines in summer — estimated at 26 million, about half a million more than last year — is expected to set an all-time high this year, the report says.

But one of the more interesting statistics in this report is the average cost of airline tickets over the last decade. The average domestic round-trip airfare in 2000 was $314 and in 2010 it was just $316 (figures exclude taxes), the ATA report says.

That, of course, doesn't mean airfares aren't subject to short-term price swings as fuel costs continue to be the wild card. For example, U.S. airlines paid $11 billion, or 30% more, for fuel in the first quarter of 2011 than during the same time last year.

"Even as demand for air travel continues to improve, high and volatile energy prices could hamper recovery efforts," ATA President Nicholas E. Calio said in a release about the report.

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