Airlines Report Decline in Passenger Demand

Passenger revenue fell 26 percent in May 2009 versus the same month in 2008— the seventh consecutive month in which passenger revenue has fallen from the prior year, the Air Transport Association of America (ATA) reports. The H1N1 flu helped exacerbate the recessionary toll on air travel demand, the ATA said.

The number of passengers traveling on U.S. airlines in May fell 9.5 percent while the average price to fly one mile fell 17.6 percent. Revenue declines extended beyond the mainland U.S. to the transatlantic, transpacific and Latin markets.

Compounding the softening demand for passenger travel, U.S. airlines saw cargo traffic— as measured by revenue ton miles— decline 22 percent year over year in April 2009, marking the ninth consecutive month of declining cargo traffic. Notably, cargo traffic in the Pacific region fell 26 percent. May 2009 cargo data is not yet available, the ATA said.

“In May, the H1N1 influenza outbreak compounded an already weak demand situation, negatively impacting industry cash flow and forcing a closer look at current levels of flying,” said ATA President and CEO James C. May.

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 30,000 flights in 77 countries, using more than 6,000 aircraft to carry an average of two million passengers and 50,000 tons of cargo.

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


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