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Fri, Mar 18, 2005

FAA Forecasts Passenger Levels to Top One Billion in the Next Decade

Passenger Volume Back to Pre-2001 Levels

The number of people flying in the United States will return to pre-2001 levels this year, with an average annual growth rate of 3.4 percent expected over the next 12 years, according to the annual 12-year aviation forecast report released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

According to FAA Aerospace Forecasts Fiscal Years 2005-2016, last year 688.5 million flew on U.S. commercial air carriers. By 2015, the number of passengers is expected to top one billion.

"Deregulation has delivered a dynamic industry where consumers are driving change. Airline customers have more options, at lower fares, based on more timely information, than ever before -– and our economy is better off as a result," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta.

"The FAA is committed to keep aviation growing," said FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey. "We are redesigning airspace, deploying new software that will help increase capacity, and putting new procedures in place. These forecast trends will require that the FAA’s resources be properly targeted during this period of change. We will be ready."

Despite economic difficulties facing many of the nation’s large airlines, the strength of regional air carriers and international travel plays a large role in keeping demand for aviation services on a continued path for growth, according to the report.

The regional/commuter airlines are projected to experience the greatest increase in passenger volume among commercial air carriers, up 15.4 percent from last year. The FAA defines regionals/commuters as airlines that generally operate aircraft of 70 seats or less, with a main mission to link passengers to a larger affiliated, or code-shared, airline. The regional jet fleet is expected to undergo the largest increase, from 1,630 aircraft in 2004 to 2,960 by 2016.

Despite the increased price of fuel and a slower rate of growth than regional airlines, large domestic carriers also are forecast to see an increase in passengers from 502.2 million in 2004 to 700 million by 2016, equal to 2.8 percent each year.

Air travel to and from the United States is also on the rise. International passenger travel on large commercial and regional air carriers increased from 54.1 million in 2003 to 61.3 million in 2004, an increase of 13.4 percent. Over the 12-year forecast period, the largest increases in international travel are slated to occur on Latin American routes at a rate of 5.5 percent more passengers annually.

In 2004, total landings and takeoffs at combined FAA and contract towers rose 0.5 percent, the first increase in activity since 2000. Of the users in the aviation community, commuters/air taxis increased their operations by 7 percent and 0.8 percent respectively. General aviation, or private flying, and military flights both declined in activity. Commercial aircraft operations are now at 1999 levels, while non-commercial operations are at 1996 levels.

The FAA bases its forecast of sustained aviation growth on economic projections from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). According to OMB, the nation’s Gross Domestic Product is projected to increase from $10.7 billion in 2004 to $15.6 billion in 2016, with a moderate inflation rate of 1.5 percent annually during that period.

FMI: www.faa.gov

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