Airlines for America, the trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, is predicting that the number of fliers in the spring travel season (March 1 – April 30) will break records.
The trade group forecasts that 145 million passengers will fly globally in the two months, an increase of 4 percent over last spring’s 140 million passengers. Airlines for America said airlines have added 110,000 seats per day across their networks to accommodate the 89,000 additional daily passengers expected to fly on U.S. carriers during this period.
“There has never been a better time to fly, as evidenced by the record levels of traffic U.S. airlines saw in 2016 and will see again this spring,” said John Heimlich, vice president and chief economist for Airlines for America. “While historically low fares, reliable operations and several consecutive years of reinvestment in the product are the primary factors underlying this growth, a boost in U.S. employment and personal incomes and the highest-ever level of household net worth are also fueling the strong demand for air travel.”
Airlines for America says the airline industry has responded to increased demand by adding service and seats. U.S. and foreign airlines in 2016 added 198 new routes and discontinued 161 routes, equating to a net growth of 37 nonstop routes year-over-year serving consumers traveling to and from U.S. airports. Airlines in 2017 have already added 151 new routes, while discontinuing 134 routes for a net growth of 17 routes.
Additionally, the supply of daily scheduled seats departing U.S. airports (U.S. and foreign airlines) grew 3.9 percent from 2015 to 2016 and is currently showing 4.1 percent growth between 2016 and 2017.
The trade group says U.S. airports of all sizes have realized air service gains over the past two years. Specifically, 176 small and non-hub markets saw seats grow at least half a percent from the third quarter of 2015 to the third quarter of 2017. Large and medium airports across the country had seat growth of 8 and 12.2 percent, respectively, during that time, while small and non-hub airports realized growth of 10.2 and 4.6 percent, respectively.
Overall in 2016 passenger enplanements increased 3.1 percent to an all-time high of 823 million passengers. Load factor declined to 83.4 percent in 2016, from 83.8 percent the prior year.