Airline Passenger Total Highest Since 2008 – But Will Pace Continue as Airfares Rise?

According the latest figures from the Department of Transportation’s statistics-keeping unit, the number of passengers on U.S. airlines traveling in this country rose to its highest level since 2008.

More Passengers, High Ticket Prices

What’s especially intriguing about these rising figures is that they occurred during a year (2011) when airlines successfully raised airline ticket prices nine times.

Why the Price of Airfare Keeps Rising

The banner year for airline passengers though was actually 2007, when more than 766 million took to the skies on U.S. planes, rebounding from the terrible slump of post-9/11.

U.S. Airline Passengers Numbers – 2000 to 2011

The following numbers come from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and reflect U.S. airlines traveling to and from U.S. airports.

  • 2011: 727 million passengers
  • 2010: 717 million
  • 2009: 701 million
  • 2008: 740 million – Oil prices near $150 per barrel, economy slumps
  • 2007: 766 million
  • 2006: 741 million
  • 2005: 735 million
  • 2004: 700 million
  • 2003: 644 million
  • 2002: 612 million
  • 2001: 621 million – September 11 terrorist attacks
  • 2000: 665 million

How to Find Cheap Flights for Summer Vacation 2012

Passenger Demand: Strong or Weakening?

During 2011, passenger figures rose again in October after the usual post-summer traffic slump, then began a downward trend. The question is, which way will the figures go as airfares continue to rise? Some airline executives insist that the passenger demand outlook remains strong, but airfare analyst Rick Seaney says, only up to a point, adding “Travelers will let the airlines know when they’ve reached the breaking point,” said Seaney. “They’ll stay home.”

Poll Shows Travelers Worried about Airfare Prices

FareCompare conducted a casual, non-scientific poll that indicated some potential travelers are uneasy about rising airline ticket prices:

  • 12% said they’d fly as much as they always
  • 43% said they’d fly less

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Published: March 23, 2012