The Air Transport Association of America (ATA), the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, today reported that passenger revenue, based on a sample group of carriers(1), fell 4 percent in December 2009 versus the same month in 2008, marking the 14th consecutive month in which passenger revenue declined from the prior year due to the combination of continued reduced passenger traffic and lower average ticket prices.
Approximately 3 percent fewer passengers traveled on U.S. airlines(1) in December while the average price to fly one mile fell more than 2 percent. Passenger revenue fell most sharply in the trans-Pacific market.
For the full year 2009, passenger revenue declined 18 percent compared to 2008 as a result of a 6 percent drop in passenger volume and a 13 percent drop in the average price paid to fly one mile. The decline in passenger revenue from 2008 to 2009 is the largest on record, exceeding the 14 percent decline observed from 2000 to 2001.
"The global recession, accompanied by high levels of unemployment, hit air travel demand especially hard in 2009, but the declines appear to be bottoming out. Anecdotal evidence suggests a positive revenue trajectory in 2010," said ATA President and CEO James C. May.
"However, we are seeing higher fuel prices as well, which could hinder recovery efforts," May said. Last week, ATA applauded the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) for its action to protect consumers and the fragile economy from reckless oil speculation, and continues to encourage congressional action to give CFTC the authority to remove trading loopholes.
In sharp contrast to prior months, U.S. airlines(2) saw cargo traffic, as measured in cargo revenue ton miles, grow 7 percent year over year (2 percent domestically and 11 percent internationally) in November 2009, driven primarily by increased international trade. This was the first observed increase in cargo traffic since July 2008; December 2009 cargo data is not yet available.
Annually, commercial aviation helps drive more than $1 trillion in U.S. economic activity and nearly 11 million U.S. jobs. On a daily basis, U.S. airlines operate nearly 26,000 flights in 80 countries, using more than 6,000 aircraft to carry an average of two million passengers and 50,000 tons of cargo.
ATA airline members and their affiliates transport more than 90 percent of all U.S. airline passenger and cargo traffic. For additional industry information, visit www.airlines.org.
(1) Based on data reported to ATA by Alaska, American, Continental (incl. Micronesia), Delta (incl. NWA), JetBlue, United and US Airways; also includes data for Air Midwest, Air Wisconsin, Allegheny, American Eagle, Atlantic Coast, Atlantic Southeast, Chautauqua, Comair, Continental Express, Executive, Freedom, Horizon, Mesa, Mesaba, MidAtlantic, Piedmont, Pinnacle, PSA, Shuttle America, SkyWest and Trans States.
(2) Based on data reported to ATA by Aloha, Alaska, American, Continental, Delta (incl. NWA), FedEx, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Midwest, Southwest, United, UPS and US Airways.
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