Airlines for America expects record passenger numbers for the summer travel season this year. A4A predicts 246.1 million passengers will travel on U.S. airlines between June 1 and August 2018. This represents a 3.7 percent increase from the same time last year, when numbers for the period measured 237.3 million passengers. To accommodate for the increase, U.S. air carriers will add an average of 116,000 seats per day.
For the first quarter of 2018, U.S. airlines reported strong performance despite the effects of storms, airport construction and a Customs and Border Protection outage. During this period, customer complaints to the Department of Transportation fell to 0.98 per 100,000 passengers, compared to 1.19 for the same period in 2017.
The first quarter of 2018 also represented the lowest ever rate of involuntary boarding denials, which measured 1.2 per 100,000 passenger boardings. This is a significant decrease from the first quarter of 2017, when the rate was 6.2. On time arrivals improved to 79.98 percent, up from 79.42 percent. Flight completion and properly handled bag rates dipped slightly however, with flight completion rates declining to 97.45 percent from 98.24 percent, and properly handled bag rates dipping to 99.71 to 99.74.
The nine publicly traded U.S. passenger airlines – Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines – showed 7 percent year over year growth in revenues. But that growth was outpaced by expenses, which rose 9.9 percent rise, causing a decline in profitability.
Overall, the industry has continued to adjust to meet demands. Low-cost and ultra low-cost carriers are creating competition that helps to drive down the cost of fares. Since 2010, ticket prices have fallen. A round-trip “all-in” ticket averaged $363 in 2017, compared to $380 for an equivalent ticket in 2010.
“As the economy grows along with household net worth, passengers are taking advantage of persistently low airfares for their summer travel plans,” says John Heimlich, vice president and chief economist of A4A. “This fall we will celebrate 40 years since the passage of the Airline Deregulation Act, which has enabled business and leisure travelers alike to reap the benefits of the nation’s safest form of transportation, while enjoying historically low airfares, increased in-flight amenities and modern technology throughout the flight experience, from the time of booking all the way through arrival at their destination.”