US airline industry progresses despite difficult times


The Air Transport Association of America (ATA) released today its 2009 Economic Report, documenting operational statistics and financial results for calendar year 2008 and the evolutionary changes that continue to take place in the airline industry.

The 2009 Economic Report demonstrates that US airlines have made measurable progress despite one of the most difficult financial periods in commercial aviation history. Nevertheless, the imperative for continuous improvement is more pressing than ever. The deployment of a modern air traffic management system would enable higher domestic productivity, greater efficiency and customer service, better environmental performance, and improvements to an already remarkable culture of safety.

“As America invests in and plans for its future, air transportation must be recognized as a national priority and a driver of economic activity,” said ATA president and CEO James C. May. “We are calling on all Americans and, in particular, our colleagues in government, to join us now in using the forces of evolution to deliver a new vision for moving America.”

The 2009 Economic Report, as well as all previous editions of this ATA publication, is available on the ATA Web site. Following are excerpts from the report:

– Annually, commercial aviation helps drive US$1.1 trillion in US economic activity and more than 10 million US jobs. On a daily basis, US airlines operate nearly 28,000 flights in 80 countries, using more than 6,000 aircraft to carry an average of two million passengers.

– Though industry operating revenues grew a healthy US$11 billion in 2008, operating expenses surged US$24 billion, swinging the industry’s operating income into the red.

– From 2001 through 2008, US passenger and cargo airlines reported cumulative net losses of more than US$55 billion. Not surprisingly, over the same period, US passenger airlines were left with no choice but to sharply downsize, shedding more than 150,000 jobs.

– Given the contraction in seating capacity, 2008 marked just the fifth time since domestic air service was deregulated in 1978 that the industry saw both domestic and international yields outpace inflation.

– The average price paid for a gallon of jet fuel jumped 96 cents in 2008 – the largest annual increase in history – to an all-time high of US$3.07.

– Flying operations, which constituted 42 percent of industry costs, increased 27 percent on a US$16 billion year-over-year spike in fuel expenses to US$58 billion in 2008.

– An additional investment of about US$6 billion in “NowGen” between now and 2013 would go a long way toward enhancing safety, creating jobs, improving environmental performance, reducing long-term government expenses, increasing small community access. and improving the economy.

– US airlines have improved their fuel efficiency by more than 120 percent over the past three decades.

– More direct routings enabled by next-generation air traffic management solutions could increase system fuel efficiency by as much as 10 to 15 percent.