May 2012 Airline Traffic Down 0.3 Percent

airlineU.S. airlines carried 63.7 million scheduled domestic and international passengers in May 2012, 0.4 percent fewer domestic passengers and 0.7 percent more international passengers than in May 2011. These changes resulted in a systemwide decrease of 0.3 percent in passengers from May 2011, the first year-to-year decline since November 2011. The May 2012 passenger total was 3.6 percent above that of two years ago in May 2010, the Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reports.

U.S. airlines carried 297.2 million total system passengers during the first five months of 2012, up 1.9 percent from the same period in 2011. Domestically, they carried 259.1 million passengers, up 1.8 percent from 2011. Internationally, they carried 38.1 million passengers, up 2.1 percent from 2011.

The first four months of 2012 continued 2011’s trend of all-time high system and domestic load factors, with an international load factor that declined from the record high set in 2010. The trend changed in May when year-to-year changes in system and domestic passengers and capacity resulted in load factors that were unchanged from May 2011.

The international load factor from January through May 2012 remained below that for the same period in 2010. Domestic capacity, measured by available seat-miles, increased 0.2 percent in May 2012 compared to May 2011. Revenue passenger miles (RPMs) increased by 0.1 percent. The international load factor in May increased as airlines increased capacity by 1.2 percent while RPMs increased by 1.4 percent. Systemwide capacity was up 0.5 percent compared to a 0.5 percent increase in RPMs.

In May, Southwest Airlines carried more total system passengers than any other U.S. airline  and carried the most domestic passengers. United Airlines, following its merger with Continental Airlines, carried the most international passengers. The top 10 US airlines carried 82.4 percent of systemwide passengers, an increase from the 70.0 percent in May 2011.


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