Passenger traffic in US will plunge by 7.8% in 2009, predicts FAA

Wednesday, April 1, 2009, 15:33 by Aviation Correspondent

The number of passengers travelling by United States-based airliners is likely to drop by 7.8 per cent in 2009, compared with 2008.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has said that as the economic recession will weaken demand for air travel.

In its annual Aerospace Forecast released on March 31, 2009, FAA said that, if its estimate comes true, that would represent the biggest drop in annual domestic capacity since the aviation industry was deregulated in 1978.

FAA is the agency of the United States Department of Transportation that is authorised to regulate and supervise all aspects of civil aviation in the US.

In 2008, airlines based in the United States had flown 679 million people, the FAA said.

Major airlines in the US had cut capacity by over 8 per cent when demand for air travel plunged following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington.

The FAA’s Aerospace Forecast also said that the number of passengers boarding international flights on United States-based airlines was expected to decline by 2.4 per cent mainly because US carriers cut back on trans-Atlantic routes owing to a marked slump in business travel.

Airline officials had earlier said that the global economic meltdown had adversely affected travel between New York and London.

Aircraft operations, the Federal Aviation Administration’s report said, were expected to come down by 5.7 per cent in 2009 as many airlines were cutting flights and using larger aircraft on account of dwindling demand.

However, the FAA report added, that most flights “should remain full or nearly full” – with load factors likely expected to stay close to 80 per cent.

Capacity – or, airline seats available for sale – will shrink by about 9 per cent to the lowest level since 2002, the FAA report said.

The FAA has predicted a 79.4 per cent load factor in 2009, compared with 79.3 per cent in 2008 and 70.6 per cent in 2000.

According to the FAA, America’s domestic carriers will fly 1 billion passengers, for the first time, in 2021, instead of the previous prediction of flying 1 billion passengers by 2016.

In other words, the number of passengers on US domestic flights would go up by an average of 2.7 per cent a year from 2010 through 2025.

In the Aerospace Forecast, Lynne Osmus, acting administrator of the FAA, said, “The downturn facing aviation mirrors the economic situation around the world, but we expect that, as economic growth returns, so too will passengers and operations.”

Meanwhile, according to the Air Transport Association, the trade organisation representing the major United States-based airlines, the number of travellers on US carriers declined by 12 per cent in February 2009 compared with the same period a year before.

As for cargo traffic, the decline was to the tune of 21 per cent in January 2009, which followed poor performance in the two previous months in which 17 per cent less cargo was carried in each month, the Air Transport Association said.

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