The US Federal Aviation Administration has dramatically revised its traffic forecasts for US airlines in the wake of the US terrorist attacks, which had an unprecedented impact on passenger traffic.

In its annual forecast, the agency predicts that US airlines will not be back to their pre-attack traffic levels until 2004. It has delayed by three years the point when it expects US carriers to hit the 1 billion domestic passengers level, from 2010 to 2013.

Between now and 2004, traffic will dip, falling about 12% this year, and then rise 4% in 2004. The number of passengers, which peaked at 695.3 million in the 12 months to 30 September 2000, is expected to drop to 600.3 million this fiscal year. During the following 12 months, however, 14% growth is forecast to 684.3 million, with levels then increasing at around 4.2% a year, reaching 1 billion annually by 2013.

Between 2004 and 2013, "ever stronger growth" may again overwhelm air traffic infrastructure, warns Louise Maillett, an acting FAA assistant administrator. FAA administrator Jane Garvey says the forecast "underscores the need to continue adding capacity to our system".

One bright spot is the forecast that regional traffic has escaped relatively unscathed and will grow by 8.2% this year and 7.3% in 2003. It also predicts that the 70-seat regional jet fleet will more than quadruple over the next decade, from 696 now, to 2,900.

Source: Flight International