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Airlines: Progress Despite Financial Problems

September 4, 2009 By: George Dooley

The deployment of a modern air traffic management system would enable higher domestic productivity, greater efficiency and customer service, better environmental performance and improvements to an already remarkable culture of safety, the Air Transport Association of America (ATA), said in its newly released 2009 Economic Report. The report covers the 2008 calendar year.

“As America invests in and plans for its future, air transportation must be recognized as a national priority and a driver of economic activity,” said ATA President and CEO James C. May. “We are calling on all Americans and, in particular, our colleagues in government, to join us now in using the forces of evolution to deliver a new vision for moving America.”

Key Points in ATA Report

*    Annually, commercial aviation helps drive $1.1 trillion in U.S. economic activity and more than 10 million U.S. jobs. On a daily basis, U.S. airlines operate nearly 28,000 flights in 80 countries, using more than 6,000 aircraft to carry an average of two million passengers and 50,000 tons of cargo.
*    Though industry operating revenues grew a healthy $11 billion in 2008, operating expenses surged $24 billion, swinging the industry’s operating income into the red.
*    From 2001 through 2008, U.S. passenger and cargo airlines reported cumulative net losses of more than $55 billion. Not surprisingly, over the same period, U.S. passenger airlines were left with no choice but to sharply downsize, shedding more than 150,000 jobs, ATA said.
*    Given the contraction in seating capacity, 2008 marked just the fifth time since domestic air service was deregulated in 1978 that the industry saw both domestic and international yields outpace inflation.
*    The average price paid for a gallon of jet fuel jumped 96 cents in 2008 – the largest annual increase in history – to an all-time high of $3.07.
*    Flying operations, which constituted 42 percent of industry costs, increased 27 percent on a $16 billion year-over-year spike in fuel expenses to $58 billion in 2008.
*    An additional investment of about $6 billion in “NowGen” between now and 2013 would go a long way toward enhancing safety, creating jobs, improving environmental performance, reducing long-term government expenses, increasing small community access and improving the economy.
*    U.S. airlines have improved their fuel efficiency by more than 120 percent over the past three decades.
*    More direct routings enabled by next-generation air traffic management solutions could increase system fuel efficiency by as much as 10 to 15 percent.
*    ATA airlines are good environmental stewards, and are on track to meet or exceed their commitment to improving their fuel efficiency another 30 percent between 2005 and 2025, which will result in CO2 savings equivalent to taking 13 million cars off the road each year during that period.
*    Cargo transport accounted for 16 percent of total industry revenues and generated $5.3 billion more sales than in 2008, reaching an all-time high of $30 billion.

ATA airline members and their affiliates transport more than 90 percent of all U.S. airline passenger and cargo traffic.


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