Summer Flights Forecast to Be Packed

May 10, 2012 Updated: May 10, 2012

Expect packed flights if you’re looking to travel on U.S. airlines this summer. American passenger jets will carry around 179 million domestic passengers during the June 1 to Aug. 31 peak flying season. This is similar to 2011’s figures, according to Airlines for America (A4A), which represents the largest airlines in the country.

American planes will also carry another 26.3 million travelers on international flights, breaking a previous record by around 500,000, the industry group said. Adding the number of domestic and international passengers together, U.S.-based airlines will carry close to 2.24 million people around the world each day.

“Customers are benefiting from record airline operational performance and greater access to the global economy while fares continue to trail the price of other services,” Nicholas E. Calio, A4A’s president, said in a statement.

“The fact that travelers will take to the air this summer both domestically and in record numbers beyond our borders underscores the value airlines are delivering to customers,” he said.

The numbers, while an encouraging sign for the nation’s economy, are still around 5 percent less than 2007 figures when 217.6 million flew on U.S.-based planes during the summer.

A4A said on Wednesday that companies it represents—including Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest/AirTran, Spirit, United and U.S. Airways—posted a net loss of $1.73 billion during the first quarter of 2012.

These airlines are still burdened with high operating costs, with a 19.1 percent increase in fuel costs over the same period in 2011, A4A added. Fuel was the industry’s largest operating cost at around 33 percent of expenses, which is up from 30 percent in 2011.

“With fuel at record-high levels, the financial loss suffered in the first quarter would have been substantially deeper if not for the significant proactive steps that the airlines have taken,” A4A Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich said in a statement.

The travel organization said that airfares still have not kept up with U.S. inflation over the past 12 years, when inflation rose around 31 percent overall. In the same period, domestic ticket prices only rose around 9 percent.

Commercial aviation annually generates around $1 trillion in U.S. economic activity and contributes around 10 million jobs, according to the trade group.

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