US airline passenger numbers drop in first half


WASHINGTON – U.S. airlines carried fewer domestic passengers but more international travelers during the first half of this year, the government said Thursday.

The overall number of scheduled passengers fell by 1.5 million, or 0.4 percent, to 378.2 million compared to the first six months of 2007, the Transportation Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics said.

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BTS said U.S. airlines carried 1.1 percent fewer domestic passengers and 5.1 percent more international passengers during the first half of the year.

In June, U.S. airlines carried 67.8 million scheduled passengers, down 2.7 percent from June 2007. That is the fourth month in a row that the passenger count declined from the same month in 2007. As fuel prices spiked over the summer, airlines raised fares, knowing some potential customers would stay home.

For June, the number of domestic passengers decreased 3.3 percent from a year earlier, while the number of international passengers rose 2.4 percent.

Southwest Airlines Co. carried 52.3 million passengers during the first half of the year, more than any other U.S. airline. AMR Corp.’s American Airlines was second with 47.3 million passengers, and it had more international passengers — 10.7 million — than any other carrier. Because of its long-haul international flights American continues to be the nation’s biggest carrier based on revenue passenger miles, an industry measure of one paying passenger flown one mile.

The other top five airlines by number of passengers flown were Delta Air Lines Inc. with 35.3 million, UAL Corp.’s United Airlines with 32.2 million, and US Airways Group Inc. with 27.9 million. US Airways jumped into the top five because for the first time it reported its data jointly with America West. The two carriers combined in 2005.