Airlines predict 134M passengers will fly in Spring 2015

Airlines predict 134M passengers will fly in Spring 2015
© Wikimedia Commons

The group that lobbies for airlines in Washington predicted Wednesday that 134.8 million passengers will take flights this spring.

The projection represents a two percent increase over the number of passengers who took flights in the spring of 2014, according to the Airlines For America (A4A) group.

The predicted growth in air travel comes as airlines are engaged in a battle with airports over the possibility of lawmakers approving an increase in the fees that passengers are charged to pay for airport improvements.

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A4A Vice President John Heimlich said Wednesday that airlines are focused on growing the demand for flight even further rather than increasing fees on ticket prices.

"A4A attributes the increase in spring air travel to rising U.S. employment and personal incomes, an improving economy, the highest consumer sentiment in a decade and the continued affordability of air travel, which remains one of the best bargains for consumers,” he said. “To meet the extra demand, airlines are adding seats to the marketplace, in part by deploying new and larger aircraft on many routes.”

The Passenger Facility Charge that is added to each flight ticket purchase is currently $4.50, but airport groups in Washington have called for it to be nearly doubled to $8.50. Airlines have opposed the idea of hiking the charge, arguing that passengers are already being hit with enough fees when they purchase flight tickets.

Airlines have been criticized during the dust up by consumer groups for not reducing the cost of flights as gas prices have fallen to there lowest levels in years in recent months.

The report that was released on Wednesday showed the 10 largest U.S. airlines that are publicly traded made a combined profit of $7.3 billion in 2014.

Heimlich said there were other factors that are considered in the price of a plane ticket besides gas costs.

“The U.S. airline industry continued its upward climb in 2014, recording a fifth consecutive year of modest profitability, despite incurring $48 billion in fuel costs as well as increases in employee wages and benefits, airport rents and landing fees, and several other non-fuel expenses,” he said.

“After four years of $100-per-barrel oil, the recent dip in the price of jet fuel is finally giving the carriers some breathing room to reinvest in the product, reward employees and shareholders, and reduce debt, all while boosting capacity," Heimlich continued. "Like other responsible businesses, airlines are focused on balanced allocation of capital to benefit all stakeholders.”

Travel groups responded to the airline industry's travel forecast by pointing out that there are other factors that also influence the experience of passengers.

"We obviously welcome the projection of increased travel demand over the next two years, which jibes with our own data," U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. "But just because the lines are longer at the DMV than ever before doesn't mean they're doing a good or humane job."

Dow said airport improvements would have to be coupled with airline efforts to increase in-flight amenities to give travelers the best experience.

"Every piece of evidence we have shows that our infrastructure is already straining under the current load, and that passengers are frustrated beyond words by overcrowded flights and delays in the terminal and on the tarmac," he said. 

"We congratulate our friends the airlines for their increasingly robust revenue reports—we all want our carriers to be healthy and profitable," Dow continued. "However, we're alarmed that the Big Three seem determined to stamp out competition and cling to the status quo, which fundamentally harms the consumer, particularly as demand grows."