About 129.5 million passengers are expected to travel in March and April compared to 128.2 million a year earlier—the highest level seen during this period in six years, says industry trade group Airlines For America (A4A).
The numbers show that an average of 2.1 million per day will fly on US airlines during the two months, with load factors of about 80%. Passenger travel during March and April in the US peaked in 2007, when 4% more travellers flew than in 2013.
The forecast includes a record 17.1 million travellers flying on US carriers' international flights during these months, or about 280,000 per day.
Passenger numbers are growing because travel is becoming more affordable and the net worth of US households is rising, says John Heimlich, A4A's vice-president and chief economist during a 5 March briefing in Washington.
“We attribute the increase in spring air travel to rising US household net worth, an improving economy and the affordability of air travel, which remains one of the best bargains for consumers,” says Heimlich.
The nine largest US airlines reported net profits of $11.6 billion in 2013 that made up 7.8% of revenues, says A4A. The airlines ended the year with $71 billion in debt that made up 48% of their annual revenues and paid down $8 billion in debt from the end of 2012.
These airlines also re-invested $12.4 billion to better the passenger experience in 2013 and will spend $11-12 billion in capital expenditures in 2014, says A4A. These capital expenditures grew 141% between 2010 and 2013, says the organisation.
Those nine airlines are: Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines.