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World air passenger traffic evolution, 1980-2020

Last updated 3 Dec 2020

IEA (2020), World air passenger traffic evolution, 1980-2020 , IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics/charts/world-air-passenger-traffic-evolution-1980-2020, Licence: CC BY 4.0

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International Civil Aviation Organization (2020). ICAO Economic Impact Analysis of COVID-19 on Civil Aviation.

a) Historical figures are subject to revision and estimates for 2020 will be updated with the evolving situation; and b) For latest update please refer to ICAO Economic Impact Analysis of COVID-19 on Civil Aviation at: https://www.icao.int/sustainability/Pages/Economic-Impacts-of-COVID-19.aspx .

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Air Traffic By The Numbers

Every day, FAA 's Air Traffic Organization ( ATO ) provides service to more than 45,000 flights and 2.9 million airline passengers across more than 29 million square miles of airspace. With an airspace system as vast and complex as ours, it is helpful to have an easy-to-reference source for relevant facts and information. View the infographic below for a glimpse into ATO , or for more information, see Air Traffic by the Numbers ( PDF ) . * based on FY22 figures

16,405,000 flights handled by the FAA yearly

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This page presents inflation-adjusted and unadjusted average air fares since 1995. Averages are computed using data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics' Passenger Origin and Destination (O&D) Survey, a 10% sample of all airline tickets for U.S. carriers, excluding charter air travel.

Average Fares are based on domestic itinerary fares. Itinerary fares consist of round-trip fares unless the customer does not purchase a return trip. In that case, the one-way fare is included. Fares are based on the total ticket value which consists of the price charged by the airlines plus any additional taxes and fees levied by an outside entity at the time of purchase. Fares include only the price paid at the time of the ticket purchase and do not include fees for optional services, such as baggage fees. Averages do not include frequent-flyer or “zero fares.” The inflation adjustment is calculated using dollars for the most recent year of air fare data.

The most recent data are from the  4th Quarter of 2023 .

Air Fare Press Releases  (Tables 1-6)

National Level Fares since 1995

Average Fares – Top 100 Airports and eight Metropolitan Areas

  • Table 7. Fares at Airports with 2,000,000+ Originating Passengers 4th Quarter 2023
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  • Table 9. Fares at Airports with 1M-1.49M Originating Passengers 4th Quarter 2023
  • Table 10. Fares at Airports with 500K-999,999K Originating Passengers 4th Quarter 2023
  • Table 11. Fares at Airports with 100K-499,999K Originating Passengers 4th Quarter 2023
  • Table 12. Fares at Metropolitan Areas 4th Quarter 2023

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50 ways air travel has changed over the last 100 years

When's the last time you got on a plane? If your last flight was before the pandemic, you're not alone. Industry statistics show worldwide air travel is down by more than 85% from 2019, according to the Associated Press in August 2020. Fears about catching COVID-19 in a crowded airport combined with regional lockdowns, border closures, and stay-at-home orders made many people think twice before hopping on a flight in 2020. Those who did travel by air during the pandemic were met with a significantly different experience. Airlines implemented mask requirements, swapped in-flight meals for prepackaged snacks, halted certain routes, and even blocked off middle seats to try to create a socially distanced experience at 35,000 feet.

The recent changes, while radical, are just the latest in a series of adjustments air travel has gone through since the first scheduled commercial flight in the U.S. took place in Florida in 1914. Early air travel was incredibly bumpy, somewhat dangerous, and had very few frills. But once Americans started jetting around the country in greater numbers, airlines upped the ante to compete for their business. Passengers would dress up for the occasion to enjoy bottomless cocktails, live entertainment, multicourse meals complete with fine china and white tablecloths, and other pleasures in the sky during the Golden Age of flying.

Since then, though, it's been a mostly downhill experience for air passengers. To squeeze every last dollar of profit from every flight, airlines have shrunk seat pitches, charged all sorts of new fees, and stopped offering free meals on many flights. The 9/11 terrorist attacks also prompted sweeping new security measures, requiring passengers to remove shoes, limit their liquids, and walk through full-body scanners before getting on a flight. Today's air travel feels like a world away from the glamour of yesteryear.

So how did air travel get to this point? To find out, Stacker looked at various news articles and websites to compile this timeline of some of the most significant changes in air travel over the last century, ranging from in-flight meals and entertainment to diversity in pilots, changes in fare categories, and frequent flier programs.

Keep reading to see how air travel has changed over the last 100 years.

1920s: Planes become available for passengers

The 1920s marked the first decade in which aircraft were designed with passengers in mind , Insider reports. However, the experience was far from glamorous. Flying was still slower than train travel, and the planes were loud, cold, and bumpy.

1921: Aeromarine Airways screens first in-flight film

Aeromarine Airways played the short film "Howdy Chicago" on a flight over the Windy City in 1921. It was the first in-flight film in history.

1927: Pan American Airways takes flight

Pan American Airways (also known as Pan Am) formed in 1927. Originally providing airmail service, the airline would eventually become the largest international air carrier in the world, and well-known among travelers.

1928: First in-flight hot meal served

Lufthansa offered the first hot-meal service aboard a plane in 1928, on a flight between Berlin and Paris. Airline workers used insulated bottles to keep the food warm, per Food Network.

1930: Air travel reserved for the wealthy

Air travel was largely reserved for the rich and famous in the late 1920s, with just 6,000 Americans flying commercially in 1930, according to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. However, it would quickly become more popular, and four years later, 75 times the number of passengers would travel by air, USA Today reports.

1936: United Airlines pioneers first airplane kitchen

United Airlines launched the airline industry's first airplane kitchen in 1936. The company gave passengers a choice between scrambled eggs and fried chicken, according to Food Network.

1939: First-ever airport lounge opens in LaGuardia Airport

New York's LaGuardia Airport became home to the first-ever airport lounge when the American Airlines Admirals Club opened in 1939. It was used exclusively for VIPs and extremely loyal passengers.

1940: Boeing flies passengers in pressurized planes

Boeing's 307 Stratoliner, the first plane with a pressurized cabin for passengers, hit the skies in 1940, reported Air & Space magazine. It kept passengers significantly more comfortable at 20,000 feet than earlier planes.

1941: In-flight entertainment goes live

Live in-flight entertainment became a new offering on airlines in 1941. Some would hire actors and singers to perform aboard the flights, per Imagik Corp.

1942: Casual air travel stops during World War II

The U.S. founded the Air Transport Command in 1942 to coordinate airlines' role in transporting cargo and personnel during World War II. The military took the use of 200 of the 360 total airlines in the country, along with their staff. As a result, casual air travel was nearly nonexistent in the U.S. during the war, according to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

1946: Pan American Airways offers frozen dinners

Advancements in flash-freezing technology allowed Pan American Airways to offer the first modern-style frozen dinners on airplanes in 1946. Flight attendants would warm up the meals in convection ovens before serving them to passengers, according to Food Network.

1948: Activists fight segregation at airports

Efforts to end racial segregation at airports began to take motion in 1948 when a Michigan politician supported a Congressional bill to integrate Washington National Airport. While the bill ultimately failed, the airport's restaurant was desegregated later that year.

1948: Passengers get first coach fares

Capital Airlines created the first coach fares for flights in 1948. The lower-cost tickets would help a much broader group of passengers experience air travel, according to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

1949: Passengers get first low-cost airline

Pacific Southwest Airlines launched in May 1949 as the world's first low-cost airline. The airline began by transporting passengers around California. It would become the inspiration for Southwest Airlines.

1950s: Airlines phase out sleeper service

Planes became faster and saw a rise in traffic throughout the 1950s. As a result, airlines spent the decade phasing out their plush sleeper service , per the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The service had typically provided berth-style beds , like the ones found on trains, for transatlantic flights, says Air & Space magazine.

1952: More efficient, reliable planes increase tourism across the Atlantic

The Douglas DC-6B, a piston-engine airliner, offered a more efficient, reliable form of air travel. United Airlines was the first to bring them into commercial service in 1952, and Pan Am would use the aircraft to help boost tourism across the Atlantic Ocean, says the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

1953: Passengers get nonstop transcontinental service

American Airlines began using the DC-7 to fly from New York to Los Angeles in November 1953. It marked the first nonstop service between the east and west coasts of the U.S.

1958: Chicago O'Hare Airport tests modern jet bridge

Chicago O'Hare Airport began using the first modern jet bridge, or jetway , in 1958. It offered a sheltered path for passengers to travel between the terminal and the plane and ultimately sped up boarding times, according to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

1958: Pan Am offers in-flight fine dining

Pan Am took in-flight dining to the next level on its daily commercial route from the Big Apple to Europe in 1958. On those flights, the airline treated guests to a fine-dining experience , complete with fine china, white tablecloths, silver carafes, and extravagant dishes, reports Food Network.

1960: American Airlines develops booking automation system

American Airlines founded the Sabre Corporation in 1960. The business would develop a booking automation system for the airline, doing away with the tedious and time-consuming process of making manual reservations for customers.

1961: In-flight entertainment monitors advance

In-flight films started to become more regular on flights in 1961 when new in-flight entertainment monitors advanced to meet airline standards, per Imagik Corp. The noise of the plane engines made it difficult for passengers to hear film dialogue, though.

1965: U.S. completes network of overlapping radars

The U.S. finished developing a network of overlapping radars for planes in 1965. It would advance air traffic control and make flights safer.

1965: Marlon D. Green breaks color barrier on major airlines

After winning a Supreme Court battle against Continental Airlines, Marlon D. Green became a pilot in 1965. The African American pilot is credited with breaking the color barrier for crew on major airlines.

1973-74: Airlines react to oil crisis

The 1973 oil crisis caused the price of oil to skyrocket. Airlines responded in several ways to cut costs. Some switched to larger, more crowded planes and scrapped flights on unpopular routes. Some also cut the weight of their planes by reducing the number of in-flight magazines and ending paint jobs for their aircraft, The New York Times reported.

1975: Airlines offer in-flight gaming

Braniff Airlines added technology to its planes to allow passengers to play Pong while flying in 1975. It was the first time in-flight entertainment systems included video games , says Imagik Corp.

1976: Concorde ushers in supersonic era

The Concorde, a supersonic passenger airliner that could fly at double the speed of sound, entered commercial service in 1976. Tickets for flights on the legendary plane were extraordinarily expensive and would allow passengers to travel long distances in significantly less time.

1976: Emily Howell Warner becomes first female captain on a major airline

Frontier promoted Emily Howell Warner to the role of captain in 1976, making her the first woman to hold that position on a major U.S. airline. She had been required to jump through multiple hoops , including extra testing, that her male counterparts didn't have to endure, according to Plane & Pilot magazine.

1978: Federal government deregulates the airline industry

President Jimmy Carter put his signature on the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978. The act would drive up competition between airlines and help reduce fares, says the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

1979: Airlines award passenger loyalty

Texas International Airlines developed the first frequent-flyer program based on miles flown in 1979, says The Points Guy. It's credited with launching the first modern program to award air passengers for loyalty.

1984: FAA approves pre-flight safety demonstration videos

The Federal Aviation Administration gave its approval for airlines to use video for pre-flight safety demonstrations in 1984. They would eventually replace live demonstrations on many flights.

1986: Airlines partner with credit card companies

The airline industry introduced its first branded credit cards in 1986, with the Continental TravelBank Gold Mastercard, says The Points Guy. These early credit cards would increase the ways in which frequent fliers could earn rewards for their loyalty to airlines.

1987: American Airlines cuts olives and saves big

American Airlines decided to remove one olive from the salad plates service to first-class passengers in 1987. The move would save the airline a whopping $40,000 per year and has now become a famous tale of cost-cutting in aviation.

1988: Airplanes get back-of-seat screens

Airplanes began installing individual screens on the back of passenger seats in 1988. It would quickly become a standard on flights, regardless of what class the passenger was sitting in, according to Imagik Corp.

1988: Air travel goes smoke-free

Nearly 80% of flights in the U.S. banned passengers from smoking in 1988. The ban applied to nearly all flights with durations of 2 hours or less, The New York Times reported.

1989: United slaps expiration date on frequent flyer miles

United Airlines slapped expiration dates on miles earned through its frequent flyer program in 1989. The move aimed to create a sense of urgency for customers to use the miles. Expiration dates are now standard in many frequent flier programs, per The Points Guy.

1994: Southwest offers first e-ticket

Southwest Airlines became the first major airline to offer electronic tickets, or e-tickets, in 1994. It would help eliminate the problem of replacing lost paper tickets.

1996: Travelocity offers online flight reservations

Travelocity went online in 1996. The online travel agency was the first to allow passengers to make flight reservations through its website.

1997: Five airlines form the Star Alliance

Five airlines from around the world—United Airlines, Thai Airways International, Air Canada, Scandinavian Airlines, and Lufthansa–teamed up to form the Star Alliance in 1997. The first alliance of its kind, the group would offer consistent code-sharing to give passengers flexibility for earning and redeeming miles within its member airlines.

2000s: High-profile airline mergers change industry landscape

The 2000s would bring about a series of high-profile airline mergers and acquisitions, starting with American Airlines buying Trans World Airlines in 2001. The consolidations would eventually establish American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines as the dominant carriers in the U.S.

2001: Government increases air travel security after 9/11

Congress approved the creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in 2001, around two months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The agency rapidly ramped up staffing and deployed tens of thousands of agents to airports to screen passengers and their luggage, says PBS.

2003: Commercial airlines retire the Concorde

Air France and British Airways both stopped flying the Concorde in 2003. The costs of maintaining the supersonic passenger jet had become too high, and passengers felt the price of the ticket was not worth saving a few hours to cross the Atlantic Ocean, per Popular Mechanics.

2006: Air passengers must limit the liquids they pack

A plot to place liquid explosives onto a series of North America-bound flights from the U.K. was uncovered in 2006. As a result, passengers were faced with new security mandates that severely restricted the quantity of liquids they could bring in their carry-on luggage.

2008: TSA deploys full-body scanners at airports

The Transportation Security Administration began setting up advanced imaging technology , or full-body scanners, at airports across the U.S. in 2008. By 2014, nearly 160 airports across the country were using the technology to screen passengers.

2008: American Airlines starts charging for all checked bags

Throughout most air travel history, passengers could expect to have at least one checked bag included in their fare. That changed in 2008, when American Airlines became the first major carrier to charge a fee for every checked bag. Other airlines would quickly follow suit.

2011: TSA PreCheck becomes available

The Transportation Security Administration introduced a new Trusted Traveler program called TSA PreCheck in October 2011. After paying a fee and getting approved, participants could get expedited service through airport security.

2012: Government requires airlines to list the total cost of flights

In early 2012, the U.S. Transportation Department implemented a new rule that required airlines to provide transparent pricing information for tickets, including all taxes, fees, and surcharges. Before that, airlines could advertise the base fare, only to surprise customers with a significantly higher price once they were about to pay.

2012: Delta develops basic economy fares

Delta Air Lines introduced a new, lower-cost fare category known as basic economy in 2012. Now an industry standard, these bare-bones fares are typically nonrefundable, have no advance seat assignments, include little to no baggage, and have other restrictions.

2018: Flights get more packed

Air travel saw a huge surge in passengers throughout the 2010s. As a result, planes became increasingly crowded. A 2018 report from The Telegraph found that most planes were flying at about 80% occupancy that year, up from about 70% in 2000.

2020: Airlines struggle during the pandemic

Stay-at-home orders and fears of COVID-19 brought air travel to a near halt in 2020. The International Air Transport Association predicted in November 2020 that the global airline industry would suffer $160 billion in losses as a result of the pandemic. The few travelers who did continue to travel by air in 2020 were met with a series of new rules and changes on planes, including mandates to wear masks and socially distance on some airlines.

2021: Airlines consider vaccine passports

In an effort to jumpstart travel after a major slowdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines are considering requiring that all passengers get vaccinated against the disease. Alan Joyce, CEO of the Australian airline Qantas, has already announced support for a COVID-19 vaccine passport , and other airlines are considering trying out the system in early 2021.

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These Are the Busiest Travel Days of the Year, According to TSA

The holidays and holiday weekends often bring with them some of the most congested days at the country’s airports and on the roads..

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The Tuesday and Wednesday just before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving are often among the busiest travel days of the year.

Photo by Jim Lambert / Shutterstock

Every year, millions of people embark on journeys, whether for business or leisure. After a few years of much less crowded airports due to the pandemic, the International Air Transport Association is reporting that passenger numbers are just about what they were prepandemic levels.

However, there have already been a number of days that have surpassed prepandemic levels and they’ve largely fallen right before or after holidays.

Take Independence Day, for example. In 2023, AAA projected that 4.17 million people flew over the July Fourth holiday period, surpassing the previous air travel record of 3.91 million travelers, set in 2019. Similarly, TSA screened a record number of passengers on the Sunday following Thanksgiving in 2022, with more than 2.56 million passengers.

According to the TSA, the busiest travel days of the year are usually the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving . TSA recorded its highest passenger screening volume in its history on the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2019, when nearly 2.9 million passengers passed through TSA checkpoints. But Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t the only times we can expect busy airports. Here are the busiest travel day of the year.

Busiest travel days of the year

Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to be the busiest travel days of the year, but other holidays like Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Labor Day also see some of the highest volumes of air passengers.

So far this year, daily passenger numbers have been growing each month. In all of 2022, only one day had more than 2.5 million air passengers in the United States: November 27 (the Sunday after Thanksgiving), with 2.560 million. As of August 20, 2023, there had already been more than 75 days in the calendar year that had surpassed 2.5 million air passengers, according to TSA checkpoint data .

These have been the five busiest travel days in the last full year:

  • July 30: 2.793 million passengers
  • July 28: 2.785 million passengers
  • July 23: 2.789 million passengers
  • June 30: 2.884 million passengers (the new record for the busiest air travel day ever in the United States)
  • June 16: 2.785 million passengers

For reference, the busiest travel day in all of 2019 was November 27, with 2.882 million passengers.

The busiest travel days around Christmas and New Year’s, historically

As for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the number of travelers is likely to ramp up during the end of December and into early January as well. In 2019, the highest number of travelers during the Christmas and New Year period was on Friday, December 17 (one week before Christmas), when 2.6 million travelers passed through TSA checkpoints. The second busiest day was Christmas Eve, with 2.58 million travelers, followed by the day after Christmas with 2.57 million travelers.

Decorated Christmas trees frame skyscraper in New York City

New York City consistently ranks as one of the top domestic travel destinations for the holidays.

Photo by Elias Andres Jose/Unsplash

Tips for flying during the busiest times of the year

There are a few ways to make travel easier and clear busy TSA checkpoints more quickly, this holiday season.

Get TSA PreCheck, Clear, and/or Global Entry

Never have these security expediting services been more valuable than during the current congestion happening at U.S. airports. TSA PreCheck recently reduced its prices from $85 to $78 for a five-year membership, and it’s only $70 to renew . Clear costs $189 per year. International travelers should consider the $100 Global Entry, which includes TSA PreCheck, for expedited customs screening upon arrival in the United States—and there’s a secret way to speed up the application process .

Check to see if your airport has a fast-pass security lane you can book in advance—for free

No TSA PreCheck or Clear? Select U.S. airports are giving travelers the option to make an advance “fast pass” reservation to head to the front of the security line—free of charge. We’ve compiled the full list of airports that offer this service .

Consider traveling with carry-on only

For those who don’t want to risk their luggage getting lost during a busy travel time when airports remain understaffed, traveling with carry-on may be your best bet. Another alternative? Luggage-shipping services .

Know what you can bring through security

If you’re traveling with carry-on, know what you can and cannot pack in said carry-on. By now, you know you can only carry on liquids in containers 3.4 ounces or smaller, so be sure that holiday items such as gravy, cranberry sauce, or wine are either left behind or packed in a checked bag as they are considered liquids and could otherwise be confiscated (and create delays). Check AFAR’s in-depth guide to what foods you can bring through TSA to make sure that what you’ve packed in your carry-on can pass through security.

Thoroughly check your bags before leaving the house

TSA recommends that travelers fully empty their bags prior to packing to make sure that they don’t accidentally bring something to the airport that they didn’t intend to bring, which could cause further delays.

Monitor the weather

Check the weather and forecasts that are available on sites such as the National Weather Service , the Weather Channel , and AccuWeather so that you can be prepared for possible disruptions and establish back-up plans for delayed travel.

Get to the airport earlier than you’d think

The lines and wait times at the country’s airports (and abroad, too) are longer than they’ve been in years. Best to arrive early and have some extra time postsecurity than risk missing your flight waiting in an hours-long check-in or security line. Aim for at least two hours before domestic flights and at least three for international flights.

Know if and when you are due a refund because of a delayed or canceled flight

On September 1, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) launched a new Aviation Consumer Protection website to help travelers track down what kind of refunds or compensation their airline should provide when there is a cancellation or delay.

Airlines aren’t required to compensate passengers when flights are delayed or canceled due to problems deemed beyond the company’s control, like bad weather. They also aren’t required to provide a refund when the passenger initiates the cancellation or flight change. But a refund is required by U.S. law when the airline cancels, delays, or alters a flight, or passengers are involuntarily bumped from a flight that is oversold or due to issues originating from the airline, such as operational or staffing problems.

Additionally, after the federal government began cracking down on airlines this year, all of the major U.S. airlines vowed to provide meal vouchers for delays of more than three hours and to provide transfers and hotel stays to passengers affected by an overnight cancellation. They have all also agreed to rebook travelers on an alternate flight at no added cost due to a delay or cancellation and most will also rebook on a partner airline.

This article originally appeared online in 2018; it was most recently updated in August 2023 to include current information.

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Number of Flights Worldwide in 2024: Passenger Traffic, Behaviors, and Revenue

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Source: IATA 2021

The number of domestic and global airline flights worldwide is an estimated 22.2 million in 2021 (IATA, 2021). After a consistent upward trend until 2020, COVID-19 occurred and brought its 3.2% annual growth to a steep decline of 46.77% , as of February 2021 (OAG, 2021). This resulted in a net loss of $118.5 billion in 2020 and is expected to continue in 2021, which has a predicted $15.8 billion net loss by the end of the year (IATA, 2020).

2020 was the worst year in history in terms of air travel demand, with the rate for international travel dropping by 75.6% and domestic travel by 48.8% (IATA, 2021). Furthermore, the numbers are down across all metrics, from air traffic to bookings. A slight recovery is expected in 2021 but the outlook is still dim due to the persistence of COVID-19 globally.

This article looks into the airline industry’s number of flights and passengers, flight statistics, traveler demographics, and industry growth projections by looking into the following topics:

Number of Airline Flights Table of Contents

  • Number of airline flights in the world per day
  • Percentage of the world population that flies
  • Airlines with the most number of flights
  • Number of International airlines in the world
  • Airline with the most international flights
  • Airlines with the most canceled flights
  • Airline with the most delayed flights
  • Airline with the most on-time flights

Airline flight stats by country

Countries with the most number of flights.

  • Country that travels abroad the most

Traveler demographics and behaviors

  • Age group that flies the most
  • Gender and Flying

Airline Revenue

How many airline flights occurred in the world per day in 2021, how many airline flights per year.

The year 2020 had over 16 million global flights . Prior to COVID-19, the Federal Aviation Administration affirms its Air Traffic Organization (ATO) has handled 45,000 local flights a day or over 16,405,000 a year (FAA, 2020).

How many people fly each year worldwide?

The number of passengers who flew in and out of US airports was 2,900,000 (FAA, 2020) based on data from the FAA prior to the pandemic. Worldwide passenger numbers from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) place the number of people who flew annually at 4.5 billion .

What percentage of the world flies?

Dennis A. Muilenburg, former Boeing CEO, has claimed  that only about 20% of the world’s population has traveled by air . This is roughly 1.5 billion people. For Americans , the results show 40% have never left the country while 13% have never flown on a plane (Forbes, 2019).

Percentage of People Who Have Never Flown

Source: OnePoll

Airlines with the most flights

With over 1,100 airlines and a market of over 7 billion potential flyers, only a limited number of airlines handle multiple flight legs and millions of passengers. In terms of fleet size and the number of passengers, American Airlines is number one  (Flight Airline Business, 2020, Blue Swan Daily, 2019).

Source: Flight Airline Business

How many international airlines are there in the world?

The IATA and ICAO, leading groups in aviation and the airline industry, has assigned airline codes to over 5,000 airlines that offer local, regional, and international airlines. The actual number of commercial airlines total 1,126 . Europe has the highest number of commercial airlines while the Australasian and Pacific region has the smallest.

Source: IATA, ICAO

Airlines with the most international flights

There are 195 countries where people can travel to—flights come and go to these countries; international flights available from various global carriers. An unexpected airline, Turkish Airlines, earns the top spot operating flights to 62% of the world’s countries (Flight Delayed, 2019) . Its strategic location—a middle point for Europe, Asia, and Africa—allows it to service over 60 million passengers a year.

Source: Green Claim

Airlines with most canceled flights

Flight delays and cancellations are common occurrences in airports. Flight cancellations cost American commercial airlines $22 billion annually . The year 2001 saw the highest number of flight cancellations from major American carriers with 231,200 canceled flights. The lowest number of flight cancellations was in 2002 at 65,140.

These disruptions came after the 9/11 attacks; a time when airport check-ins and security saw an extensive overhaul and TSA patdowns and body searches became the norm. Cancellations for 2019 saw an increase of 5.74% with rates climbing back again since 2017. In January 2020, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics states domestic flight cancellations were at 1.3% , higher than December 2019 rates (1.1%) but 64.52% lower compared to January 2019 rates (3.15) (Bureau of Transportation, 2020).

According to a 2020 study by Colibra, there is an airline whose vast majority of flights result in cancellations. Air Arabia has the highest frequency of cancellations among all airline companies with a startling 91.63% (Colibra, 2020), followed by China Eastern Airlines (37.62%) and AOM French Airlines (32.35%).

Source: Colibra 2020

Airlines with the most delayed flights

Jin Air has the highest percentage of delayed flights at 85.48% (Colibra, 2020), which was followed by another South Korean budget airline Jeju Air with a percentage of 64.15%. Indonesia’s Lion Air came in third while fourth place belongs to Ethiopian Airlines.

Airline with most on-time flights

Data from OAG reveals that Hawaiian Airlines leads the pack in terms of punctuality with an on-time percentage of 87.40% (OAG, 2020). Delta Airlines comes in second with 83.56%, followed by Alaska Airlines and Spirit Airlines. Two of Delta’s competitors, American Airlines and United, takes the 8th and 9th spots, respectively.

Source: OAG 2020

The aviation industry was devastated by COVID-19 in 2020 and the succeeding year won’t likely exhibit a full recovery. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 65 airline companies canceled all of their flights (Airsavvi, 2020). In addition, the number of flights worldwide decreased by 22.5 million compared to that of 2019 (IATA, 2020). The year-on-year flight frequency for nearly the entire 2020 was down and it extended to the beginning of 2021.

Source: OAG 2021

Worldwide passenger traffic sank across all regions worldwide in 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic (IATA, 2021). The hardest hit were the Middle East and the Asia Pacific regions but COVID-19 sent aviation industries in every continent reeling.

In 2021, the Asia Pacific region owns the biggest share of the global aviation industry at 38.64% (IATA, 2021). Europe comes in second as it has overtaken North America in terms of market share.

The US leads in number of passengers carried, 926.74 million , in 2019 (The Global Economy, 2019). China claims the second spot with more than 659 million passengers, followed by Ireland with over 170 million. International flights typically use an Airbus A380, which has a seating capacity of 868.

Source: TheGlobalEconomy.com 2019

The numbers can be confusing with stats claiming varied data about air travel in the US.

Although incomes are dropping and its middle-class is shrinking, the US remains a popular tourist destination and continues to be a tourist draw. Its biggest market is local–67.3% are intraregional travelers while the other 32.71% flew to other continents . Meanwhile, for US travelers, Mexico comes as the most popular international destination (Statista, 2020).

Source: Statista 2020

Which country goes abroad the most?

In 2019, Finland topped the list of countries whose people travel the most . The Northern European country averaged 7.5 trips per person per year . The US is in second place with 6.7 trips per person but leads in domestic trips with 6.5 trips per person; data corroborates intraregional traveler data in the previous section. All of the ten countries in the list are classified as First World with high living standards (World Atlas, 2019).

Source: WorldAtlas.com

Traveler preferences and attitudes have changed post-9/11 alongside sweeping technological advancements in the airline industry. General traveler satisfaction after a flight is steady at 75% for the last three years (2017 – 2019). The scores vary depending on location with Africa garnering the lowest passenger satisfaction score of 40%.

Source: IATA; IPSOS

Passenger satisfaction drivers include check-in—self-service or traditional, boarding, inflight entertainment, and border control and immigration, among others. The last of the aforementioned hovers at 62%–64% based on the results from 2017–2019 .

Source: IATA

What age group travels the most?

The general and widely held view is that Millenials and Gen-Z are the age groups that travel the most. Data from IATA’s Global Passenger Survey reveal three age groups who travel the most: Gen Y, Millenials, and Gen X . Of the three, Millenials or those in the 35–44 year-old range flies the most, internationally and domestically.

Traveler preferences based on gender

Business travel arrangements were primarily booked by women as stated in a 2018 study (Medium, 2018). Some of the interesting outcomes from the survey include: Women like to travel solo and they often do the bookings. In fact, 80% of travel decisions are made by women (Gutsy, 2019).

Female Preferences in Air Travel

Source: Access 2020, Gutsy 2019

Which gender travels more?

IATA’s study shows a 41.27% skew in favor of males when it comes to travel . Data for the last five years show that men travel three times more than women . The same ClosinGap study points out that although men travel more, women spend more during travel . Travel expenses are centered on hotels and tourist services. The study further notes that if women were to travel as much as men did, they would be able to generate 2.35 billion euros a year.

The IATA and ICAO report worldwide revenue based on passenger air traffic at $567 billion for 2019 . Market projections for 2020 were positive in the last quarter of 2019 with 40.3 million flights forecasted. This approximates to an expected $581 billion in revenue earnings for 2020.

Source: IATA; ICAO

Two leading airline groups are neck and neck in revenues earned for 2019: American Airlines with $44.54 billion and Delta Airlines with $44.44 billion . FedEx, at number five with $37.33 billion, does not fly passengers commercially but only deals in moving cargo.

Source: Flightglobal

Airline travel in the time of COVID-19

Major adjustments were seen in the market projections of airlines in recent weeks in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Major airlines scrambled to reshuffle and reschedule flights with multiple countries crossing their borders effectively shutting down travel. Business Insider reports over 50 airlines have scaled back operations or have temporarily shut down due to loss of demand for flights (Business Insider, 2020).

Countries With Completely Closed Borders Due To Covid-19

Key insights.

  • Impact of COVID-19: The pandemic caused a significant decline in air travel, with a 46.77% drop in flights in 2020 and an expected net loss of $118.5 billion in 2020, with a further $15.8 billion loss projected for 2021.
  • Recovery Expectations: A slight recovery is expected in 2021, but the outlook remains uncertain due to the ongoing global impact of COVID-19.
  • Flight Frequency: In 2021, the number of daily flights was around 151,435, still lower than pre-pandemic levels of 2019 which saw 106,849 flights per day.
  • Passenger Numbers: Prior to the pandemic, 4.5 billion passengers flew annually worldwide, with 2.9 million flying in and out of US airports daily.
  • Airline Performance: American Airlines led in terms of passengers carried, with over 215.2 million passengers, followed by Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines.
  • International Flights: Turkish Airlines operates flights to the most countries, covering 62% of the world’s countries.
  • Flight Cancellations and Delays: Air Arabia had the highest flight cancellation rate at 91.63%, while Jin Air had the highest delay rate at 85.48%. Hawaiian Airlines had the most on-time flights at 87.4%.
  • Regional Market Share: In 2021, the Asia Pacific region held the largest share of the global aviation market at 38.64%.
  • Traveler Demographics: Millennials (ages 35-44) are the most frequent flyers. Men travel more frequently than women, although women make 80% of travel decisions.
  • Revenue Impact: Global airline revenue was $567 billion in 2019, with a projected revenue of $581 billion for 2020 before the pandemic impact.
  • How has COVID-19 affected the airline industry? COVID-19 caused a dramatic decline in air travel demand, with a 46.77% drop in flights in 2020. The industry experienced a net loss of $118.5 billion in 2020 and is projected to lose an additional $15.8 billion in 2021.
  • How many flights occur daily worldwide? As of February 2021, there are approximately 151,435 flights daily worldwide, down from 106,849 flights per day in 2019 before the pandemic.
  • Which airline carries the most passengers? American Airlines carries the most passengers, with over 215.2 million passengers annually.
  • Which airline flies to the most countries? Turkish Airlines flies to the most countries, covering 62% of the world’s countries.
  • Which airlines have the highest cancellation rates? Air Arabia has the highest cancellation rate at 91.63%, followed by China Eastern Airlines at 37.62%.
  • Which airlines experience the most delays? Jin Air has the highest delay rate at 85.48%, followed by Jeju Air at 64.15%.
  • Which airline has the most on-time flights? Hawaiian Airlines has the highest percentage of on-time flights at 87.4%.
  • What is the current market share of different regions in the aviation industry? The Asia Pacific region holds the largest share of the global aviation market at 38.64%, followed by Europe and North America.
  • What age group travels the most? Millennials, specifically those aged 35-44, are the most frequent travelers.
  • How much revenue did the global airline industry generate in 2019? The global airline industry generated $567 billion in revenue from passenger air traffic in 2019.
  • What are the top destinations for US travelers? The most popular international destinations for US travelers are Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
  • Which country’s residents travel the most? Finland’s residents travel the most, averaging 7.5 trips per person per year.

References:

  • Airsavvi (2020). Flight suspension rate of global airlines due to COVID-19 as of March 23, 2020 . Retrieved from Statista
  • Bond, M. (2019, June 8). Women Travel Statistics from Women Travel Expert . Retrieved from Gutsy
  • Blijdenstein, J. (2019, January 16). Which airlines fly to the largest number of countries? . Retrieved from Flight Delayed
  • Blue Swan Daily (2019). Top Global Airlines in 2019, by Fleet Size . Retrieved from Statista
  • Buchholz, K. (2020, December 10). The Most Popular Destinations for U.S. Travelers Abroad . Retrieved from Statista
  • Colibra (2020, October 6). These are the airlines and airports with the most delays and cancellations, our new study reveals . Retrieved from Colibra
  • FAA (2020). Air Traffic By The Numbers . Retrieved from FAA
  • Flight Airline Business (2020, October). Leading airline groups worldwide in 2019, based on passengers . Retrieved from Statista
  • Flightradar24 (2021). Flight tracking statistics . Retrieved from Flightradar24
  • IATA (2020, November). Number of flights performed by the global airline industry from 2004 to 2021 . Retrieved from Statista
  • IATA (2020, November 24). IATA Annual General Meeting 2020: Deep Losses Continue Into 2021 . Retrieved from IATA
  • IATA (2021, February 3). 2020 Worst Year in History for Air Travel Demand . Retrieved from IATA
  • McCarthy, N. (2020, March 31). COVID-19: Unprecedented Decline In Air Traffic . Retrieved from Statista
  • Novakova, S. (2018, July 6). Why women book more trips than men do . Retrieved from Medium
  • OAG (2021). The Journey to Recovery Starts Here: How and When Will Aviation Recover From COVID-19? . Retrieved from OAG
  • OAG (2020). Punctuality League 2020 . Retrieved from OAG
  • Sheth, K. (2019, March 15). . Retrieved from World Atlas
  • The Global Economy (2019). Airline Passengers – Country Rankings . Retrieved from The Global Economy

Allan Jay

By Allan Jay

Allan Jay is FinancesOnline’s resident B2B expert with over a decade of experience in the SaaS space. He has worked with vendors primarily as a consultant in the UX analysis and design stages, lending to his reviews a strong user-centric angle. A management professional by training, he adds the business perspective to software development. He likes validating a product against workflows and business goals, two metrics, he believes, by which software is ultimately measured.

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Very extensive database. I have a query re. Ireland. The population is ~5M. So can it be one of the countries generating the most passengers? Could it be that Ryanair traffic for inter EU minus Ireland-EU is overstating Irish numbers? If yes, then to capture that traffic all Ryanair aircraft would have to be registered in Ireland i.e. the aircraft in each base outside Ireland would have to be on the Irish register.

The other question is the number of international airlines. This stat may be the total number of commercial airlines in the world. International airlines carry about 40% 0f all traffic with about 30% of the fleet. My hunch is that 80-90% of all commercial airlines operate domestic and international routes. Note that IATA has ~300 members and most of those would be in the international category. Some of the regional carriers could be international,but could be less than 20 or so. I hope this useful.

Very extensive database. I have a query re. Ireland. The population is ~5M. So can it be one of the countries generating the most passengers? Could it be that Ryanair traffic for inter EU minus Ireland-EU is overstate Irish numbers? If yes, then to capture that traffic all Ryanair aircraft would have to be registered in Ireland i.e. the aircraft in each base outside Ireland would have to be on the Irish register.

The other question is the number of international airlines. This stat may be the total number of commercial airlines in the world. International airlines carry about 40% 0f all traffic. My hunch is that 80-90% of all commercial airlines operate domestic and international routes. Note that

I was wondering what the definitions for “pre-COVID” and “post-COVID” in 2020 are? (1st chart “Number of Flights from 2004 to 2021”)

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Air Travel Statistics 2023

airline travel by year

Where did we go, how far did we travel and which airports did we frequent this year? As the leading data platform for the global travel industry, OAG has the inside scoop on the most popular travel locations, the airlines going furthest, the airports expanding their routes and much more. We've run the numbers for 2023 to share with you some vital aviation industry statistics.

WHEN WAS THE PEAK DAY FOR AIR TRAVEL IN 2023?

In 2023, the busiest day for airlines was Friday August 11th , when airlines operated 18,586,233 seats . For context, the average daily capacity over the year was 16,582,222, making this peak summer day 12% busier than the average travel day.

Conversely, the quietest day to travel by air is the third Saturday of the year , at least based on 2023's data. 13,967,001 seats operated on January 21st , making the day 16% less busy than the average for airline operators.

Which were the most popular destinations in 2023?

The top airline route based on Available Seat Kilometers (ASKs) is New York JFK to London Heathrow . Heathrow features in 4 out of the top 10 routes by ASK:

  • New York JFK - London Heathrow, 21,471,979,424 ASKs
  • London Heathrow - Singapore 19,460,546,436 ASKs
  • LAX - London Heathrow, 19,179,264,984 ASKs
  • Dubai - London Heathrow, 16,349,249,847 ASKs

Singapore's strong results this year are reflected in the fact that London Heathrow - Singapore Changi Airport is the second ranked route on the list, while the recovery of the USA market means that 6/10 of the routes include at least one US destination:

  • LAX - Taiwan, 12,938,927,648 ASKs
  • San Francisco - Taiwan, 12,912,318,601 ASKs
  • New York JFK - LAX, 12,875,821,884 ASKs
  • Seoul Incheon - LAX, 12,754,317,014 ASKs

In addition to the most popular routes, we can also reveal the longest and shortest international flight routes.

Starting with the shortest flight route of 2023 is a twice-weekly flight operated by Air Kiribati. The flight from Tarawa (TRW) to Abaiang (ABF) in Kiribati, in the Northern Gilbert Islands, is just 26 nautical miles with a flight time of 15 minutes, and serves as a lifeline service for residents of both islands. 

The world's longest flight this year was Singapore Changi to New York JFK, coming in at 8,279 nautical miles and operated daily by Singapore Airlines. You can learn more about this route and explore the rest of the top 10 longest commercial flights in our blog .

Which airlines were most popular?

The largest airline in the world in 2023 was Southwest , with 619 billion ASKs. The carrier operated 9% more ASKs than its closest rival for the top spot, American Airlines .

The fastest growing airline of the year is Cathay Pacific, which saw the highest percentage increase in flights 2023 v 2022. The number of flights is up by 137% from 31,661 flights in 2022 to 75,161  in 2023. That said, there is still some way to go toward recovery and by the end of 2023, Cathay's flights are still 28% below 2019 levels. 

How is the aviation industry's pandemic recovery progressing?

Total global capacity for the year has not quite recovered to the levels seen pre-pandemic ( it's expected to finish up at 5.5bn, which will be 3.7% down on 2019 ) , but strides were made in 2023 as those countries still maintaining travel restrictions through 2022 started to ease the rules. 

When it comes to airlines, the most recovered when compared to pre-pandemic flights is Southern Airways Express, a small US commuter airline based out of Memphis. This year it operated 156% of it's 2019 flight lever , with 86,000 flights scheduled in 2023, equivalent to 235 flights per day. To give this number context, Southwest Airlines , the biggest airline in the world in terms of flights, operates 6,250 daily flights. 

The most recovered airport of the top 100 largest airports by seat volume was Bogata , Colombia's largest airport, where capacity for 2023 is 16% above the level of 2019 .

Shanghai Airport (PVG) has added the most routes of any airport this year compared to last year, a reflection of China's gradual re-opening to the world. In 2019 there were 236 routes, dipping to 185 in 2022. In 2023 54 routes were added , bringing the total to 239, above pre-pandemic levels.

The overall theme of this year's airline data is one of growth and recovery, and while we hope soon to be in a position to stop comparing to 2019, the data will always tell a story. Make sure you don't miss a chapter by subscribing to our blog alerts, below.

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Air Travel Consumer Report: December 2023, Full Year 2023 Numbers

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today released its Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on airline operational data compiled for the month of December 2023 and calendar year 2023 for on-time performance, mishandled baggage, mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, and oversales.

The ATCR is designed to assist consumers with information on the quality of services provided by airlines. In addition, DOT expects that airlines will operate flights as scheduled and that when they do not, airlines provide consumers the services consumers have been promised when a flight is canceled or delayed because of an airline issue.

In 2023, airline service quality generally improved. Notably, only 1.29%  of flights were cancelled across the 10 largest U.S. airlines, far below the 2.71% cancellation rate for 2022, 1.76% for 2021, 5.99% for 2020, and 1.90% for 2019 . Across the National Airspace System , the 2023 cancellation rate was under 1.2% – the lowest in over a decade.  Meanwhile, airlines reported better on-time performance. Further, the  rate of wheelchair, scooter, and baggage mishandlings as well as denied boardings all decreased, as did the number of tarmac delays. 

After a two-year DOT push to improve the passenger experience, the 10 largest airlines now guarantee meals and free rebooking on the same airline and nine guarantee hotel accommodations. Consumer-friendly information regarding airline commitments to their customers is available on the Department’s Airline Customer Service Dashboard at FlightRights.Gov . DOT also pushed airlines to provide fee-free family seating and rolled out a new family seating dashboard that highlights the airlines that guarantee fee-free family seating, and those of the 10 largest that do not, making it easier for parents to avoid paying junk fees to sit with their children when they fly.

DOT is also improving transportation for individuals with disabilities. In July 2023, DOT finalized a rule which requires airlines to make lavatories on new, single-aisle aircraft more accessible. Under this final rule, airlines must improve the accessibility of these lavatories short of increasing their size in the short term. In addition, in the long term, airlines are required to provide an accessible lavatory that is large enough to permit a passenger with a disability and attendant, both equivalent in size to a 95th percentile male, to approach, enter, and maneuver within as necessary to use the aircraft lavatory.

In addition, when necessary, DOT takes enforcement action against airlines and ticket agents that fail to comply with the Department’s aviation consumer protection requirements. In 2023, DOT issued the largest fines in the history of the consumer protection office. This includes a $140 million penalty against Southwest Airlines for failing passengers during the 2022 holiday meltdown. The action, which was in addition to over $600 million DOT already ensured was refunded by Southwest to passengers, requires Southwest to establish a $90 million compensation system for future passengers affected by significant delays and cancellations. DOT has helped return more than $3 billion in refunds to travelers since the pandemic began.

Flight Operations

The 603,756 flights operated in December 2023 were 110.35% of the 547,134 flights operated in December 2022. Operated flights in December 2023 were up 10.35% year-over-year from the 547,134 flights operated in December 2022 and up 0.80% month-over-month from the 598,987 flights operated in November 2023.

U.S. Airlines Operated Domestic Flights

In December 2023, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 606,218 scheduled domestic flights, of which 2,462 (0.4%) were canceled. In November 2023, airlines scheduled 599,814 domestic flights, of which 827 (0.1%) were canceled. In December 2022, airlines scheduled 578,321 domestic flights, of which 31,187 (5.4%) were canceled.

December 2023 On-Time Arrival

In December 2023, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 83.9%, down from 86.3% in November 2023, but up from 69.0% in December 2022.

Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates December 2023 (ATCR Table 1)

  • Delta Airlines Network – 89.3%
  • United Airlines Network – 85.6%
  • American Airlines Network – 84.1%

Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates December 2023 (ATCR Table 1)

  • JetBlue Airways – 71.4%
  • Spirit Airlines – 75.4%
  • Frontier Airlines – 77.4%

In 2023, the reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 78.34%, up from 76.72% in 2022.

December 2023 Flight Cancellations

In December 2023, reporting marketing carriers canceled 0.4% of their scheduled domestic flights, higher than the rate of 0.1% in November 2023, but lower than the rate of 5.4% in December 2022.

Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights December 2023 (ATCR Table 6)

  • American Airlines Network – 0.1%  
  • United Airlines Network – 0.3%   
  • Delta Air Lines Network – 0.4%

Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights December 2023 (ATCR Table 6)

  • Hawaiian Airlines – 1.5%    
  • Alaska Airlines Network – 1.0%    
  • Allegiant Air – 0.7%

In 2023, the reporting marketing carriers posted a cancellation rate of 1.29%, down from 2.7% in 2022 .

Complaints About Airline Service

The release of air travel service complaint data in the Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) has been delayed primarily because of the continued high volume of complaints against airlines and ticket agents received by the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) and the time needed to review and process these consumer complaints. The Department is investing in modernizing its system for handling consumer complaints with the support of a Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) investment to improve the customer experience for the tens of thousands of consumers who use the system each year and enable OACP to more effectively engage in oversight of the airline industry. TMF has awarded DOT an $8 million grant towards this effort. 

As DOT modernizes its system, given the continued high volume of air travel service complaints concerning airlines and ticket agents, DOT has revised how it processes consumer complaints received after June 1, 2023.  DOT also will revise the ATCR to display consumer submissions (complaints, inquiries, and opinions) as opposed to complaints for this period. The Department will continue to display civil rights complaints in the ATCR in a similar manner as before and anticipates publishing submission and civil rights complaint numbers in spring.

Tarmac Delays

For calendar year 2023, airlines reported 289 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and 27 tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights. For calendar year 2022, airlines reported 376 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and 42 tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights.

In December 2023, airlines reported five tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to two tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights reported in November 2023. In December 2023, airlines reported zero tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to one tarmac delay reported in November 2023.

Airlines are required to have and adhere to assurances that they will not allow aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flights without providing passengers the option to deplane, subject to exceptions related to safety, security, and Air Traffic Control related reasons. An exception also exists for departure delays if the airline begins to return the aircraft to a suitable disembarkation point to deplane passengers by those times.

The Department investigates extended tarmac delays.

Mishandled Baggage

In December 2023, reporting marketing carriers handled 43.1 million bags and posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.50%, higher than the rate of 0.39% in November 2023, but lower than the rate of 1.09% in December 2022.

For calendar year 2023, the carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.58%, down from the rate of 0.64% in 2022 .

The Department began displaying the mishandled baggage data as a percentage (i.e., per 100 bags enplaned) in January 2022. This is consistent with the manner that the mishandled wheelchairs and scooters rate is calculated and displayed.

In the prior three calendar year reports (2019 to 2021), the Department calculated the mishandled baggage rate based on the number of mishandled bags per 1,000 checked bags.

Mishandled Wheelchairs and Scooters

In December 2023, reporting marketing carriers reported checking 69,397 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 968 for a rate of 1.39% mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, higher than the rate of 1.26% mishandled in November 2023, but lower than the rate of 1.49% mishandled in December 2022.

For calendar year 2023, the carriers posted a mishandled wheelchair and scooter rate of 1.38%, down from the rate of 1.41% in 2022 .

Yesterday, the Department announced its proposal to strengthen its rule implementing the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) to address the serious problems that individuals with disabilities using wheelchairs and scooters face when traveling by air that impact their safety and dignity, including mishandled wheelchairs and scooters and improper transfers to and from aircraft seats, aisle chairs, and personal wheelchairs. The proposed rule would require that airlines meet strict standards in accommodating passengers with disabilities by setting new standards for prompt, safe, and dignified assistance, mandating enhanced training for airline employees and contractors who physically assist passengers with disabilities and handle passengers’ wheelchairs, and outlining actions that airlines must take to protect passengers when a wheelchair is damaged during transport. The proposed rule also clarifies that damaging or delaying the return of a wheelchair is an automatic violation of the ACAA.

Bumping/Oversales

Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.

For the fourth quarter of 2023, the 10 U.S. reporting marketing carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.20 per 10,000 passengers, lower than both the rate of 0.35 in the third quarter of 2023 and the rate of 0.30 in the fourth quarter of 2022.

For calendar year 2023, the carriers posted a bumping/oversales rate of 0.30 per 10,000 passengers, down from the rate of 0.32 in 2022 .

Incidents Involving Animals

As part of its IT modernization, DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) is improving the options for covered carriers to submit their monthly and annual Reports on Incidents Involving Animals During Air Transport. While the new system is being developed, OACP is permitting covered carriers to delay submission of reports on incidents involving animals during air transport. Annual data on such incidents will be published when DOT receives carriers’ complete submissions of the 2023 data.  

In December 2023, carriers reported zero incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, down from the one report filed in November 2023 and equal to the zero reports filed in December 2022.

Consumers may file air travel consumer or civil rights complaints online at http://airconsumer.dot.gov/escomplaint/ConsumerForm.cfm  or by voicemail at (202) 366-2220, or they may mail a complaint to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, C-75, W96-432, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20590.

The ATCR and other aviation consumer matters of interest to the public can be found at https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer .

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The U.S. government began publishing statistics on the safety of commercial aviation in 1927. While 1978 legislation eliminated economic regulation of the U.S. airline industry, it left safety regulation very much in place. The following table depicts the safety record of U.S. airlines performing scheduled services worldwide, from 2000 to present, as recorded by NTSB.

Safety Record of U.S. Air Carriers (Part 121 Scheduled Service): 2000 to Present

Source: NTSB Aviation Accident Statistics, Table 6. Fatal Accident Rate excludes incidents resulting from illegal acts, consistent with NTSB practice.

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American Airlines: Attempt to blame 9-year-old for being recorded in lavatory is 'an error'

airline travel by year

American Airlines is changing direction after saying that a young girl was negligent after being recorded by a flight attendant in the lavatory.

In the filing on May 21 the airline claimed that one of the plaintiffs, a 9-year-old girl, was recorded in the bathroom through her “own fault and negligence.”

“[The] Plaintiff’s use of the compromised lavatory, which she knew or should have known contained a visible and illuminated recording device,” American Airlines response to the petition said.

American Airlines flight attendant: Accused of filming girls in plane bathroom arrested

Attorney Paul Llewellyn is representing two young girls who were recorded on separate flights, including the 9-year-old.

“I was both shocked and outraged,” Llewellyn told USA TODAY. “As a lawyer I understand that you have to assert possible defenses, but I cannot even imagine a world where it would ever be appropriate to blame a 9-year-old for being filmed in an airplane bathroom.”

In a statement to USA TODAY, American Airlines said that there was an error in the filing.

“Our outside legal counsel retained with our insurance company made an error in this filing. The included defense is not representative of our airline and we have directed it be amended this morning," an American Airlines spokesperson said in a statement. “We do not believe this child is at fault and we take the allegations involving a former team member very seriously. Our core mission is to care for people — and the foundation of that is the safety and security of our customers and team.”

Llewellyn said that this situation has greatly impacted the victims, especially since the images were not ever located.

“As a result of this has had a significant impact on them,” he said, “These images they could be on the dark web forever. These poor young girls for the rest of their lives will have this hanging over their heads and these intimate images of them exist out there and we don't know who has possession of them.”

Former American Airlines flight attendant was charged for allegedly recording minors on board several flights

On April 26, former American Airlines flight attendant Estes Thompson, 36, a Charlotte, North Carolina resident, was charged after prosecutors said he secretly recorded minors while they used the plane's lavatory.

Thompson allegedly has the recordings of four minors, ages 7, 9, 11 and 14 years old, that had been using the bathroom while he worked on the aircraft, a press release from the Department of Justice said.

Over 50 images of the 9-year-old victim were found in Thompson’s iCloud. In addition, the photos of the victim included images of her seated pre-flight and close-ups of her face while she slept on board, the press release said.

Flight attendant: Caught for allegedly filming a girl in the plane bathroom

14-year-old girl provided evidence of the encounter

According to a criminal complainant filed on Dec. 1, 2023, the family of a 14-year-old girl filed a lawsuit alleging that Thompson secretly recorded her while she utilized the lavatory.

On a flight from North Carolina to Boston on Sept. 2, 2023, the young girl needed to go the bathroom and Thompson told her to use the first-class facility. Thompson said he needed to wash his hands before the girl used the facility, the complaint said.

After using the bathroom, the girl noticed that a phone was hidden beneath the seat's broken sign. The victim then pulled out her phone to take a picture of what she saw to show to her parents, the complaint said.

When she unlocked the lavatory door, Thompson was standing there and entered the bathroom again. The victim’s father then confronted Thompson about the photo. After taking a while to show his phone to the father, no intimate photos of the girl were visible, the complaint said.

Thompson’s charges

Following the incident with the 14-year-old girl, Thompson was arrested on Jan. 9 and charged with:

  • one count of attempted sexual exploitation of children
  • one count of possession of images of child sexual abuse depicting a prepubescent minor

"I think it is time for American Airlines to finally stand up and take responsibility for what happened instead of pursuing these frivolous legal defenses," Llewellyn said. "Why don't they take responsibility they claim to care about passengers they claim to take this case very seriously well actions speak louder than words."

Ahjané Forbes is a reporter on the National Trending Team at USA TODAY. Ahjané covers breaking news, car recalls, crime, health, lottery and public policy stories. Email her at  [email protected] . Follow her on  Instagram ,  Threads  and  X (Twitter) .

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Air travel has gone to the dogs — literally. Here’s what to know about BARK Air

Rachel Treisman

A dog rests on a seat in a plane next to a blanket reading

BARK Air officially launched this week, completing its first flight from New York to Los Angeles on Thursday. It also flies to London and aims to add more routes in the coming months. Joe Gall/BARK hide caption

Flying with your dog in first class may sound like a far-fetched dream for many pet lovers. But a new boutique airline launching this week aims to make the “white paw experience” a reality.

BARK Air describes itself as “the world’s first air travel experience designed specifically for dogs first, and their human companions second.”

“BARK Air has taken the white glove experience typical of a human’s first-class experience and redirected all that pampering to pooches – from booking to arrival, to in-flight services and disembarkation, dogs will truly be the VIPs and treated to a positively luxurious, curated experience,” it said in an announcement last month .

Grounded: Emotional Support Animals No Longer Guaranteed Free Flights

Grounded: Emotional Support Animals No Longer Guaranteed Free Flights

BARK Air officially got off the ground on Wednesday afternoon, when its inaugural flight ferried six dogs of varying breeds — from Chihuahuas to a Golden Retriever — and 11 humans (both passengers and crew) from New York to Los Angeles.

The Very Important Pups were treated to chicken-flavored puppuccinos, special cupcakes and a shoe — on a platter — to snack on, according to BARK Chief of Staff Katharine Enos. She told NPR over email that there was “no drama on board.”

“Brooklyn (dachshund) and Eddy (golden) [were] friends and played and the little dogs took nice long naps most of the way,” she added. “After lunch it was nap time for everyone. No potty accidents on board or stolen food either! Everyone felt connected in the way we were obsessed with our dogs.”

Introducing BARK Air: A 100% totally real airline for dogs. We're dog people, and we are tired of there being no truly dog-friendly options when it comes to air travel. Now booking the best-in-class dog focused flight imaginable at https://t.co/eZqVYMC5W3 pic.twitter.com/bzcY2rSO4h — BARK (@bark) April 11, 2024

The airline is a subsidiary of BARK, the company behind dog-focused brands like the subscription service BarkBox. Co-founder and CEO Matt Meeker says he’s been working towards this idea for over a decade.

He was inspired by his late Great Dane Hugo, who traveled with him often but could never fit on a plane — like many non-lap dogs, Hugo would have had to fly in the cargo area rather than the cabin. (Meeker even flew from Florida to New York in a cargo crate to show how disorienting that experience can be, as part of Bark Air’s promotional campaign.)

Many airlines have tightened restrictions for emotional support animals on board in recent years. The logistics and cost of travel can be a highly emotional issue for many families who don’t want to leave their dogs behind when relocating, let alone vacationing, Meeker says.

“We don't think of ourselves as selling dog toys or seats on an airline,” Meeker told NPR in a phone interview. “We think of ourselves as selling awesome emotional experiences with your dog.”

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It’s also an expensive one: BARK Air flights between New York and LA cost $6,000 for one dog and one human (or one human and two dogs collectively under 50 pounds) in each direction, and one-way flights between New York and London go for $8,000.

Potential customers were quick to bemoan the cost, with one social media user joking that her pup would need to start selling “paw pics” to make it work.

Meeker acknowledged that “the price is high, and it’s too high.” But he said innovations, especially related to transportation, often become less expensive over time — and he hopes that will be the case with BARK Air, too.

“We have pretty clear ways of bringing those prices down if the demand is there, and that’s what we aim to do,” he added. “We want to make this affordable and accessible for as many dogs as possible.”

The airline aims to pamper passengers, both pups and people

Two dogs and several people sit on a private jet.

The airline doesn't have dog size or breed restrictions but only allows humans over age 18 (or 126 in dog years). Joe Gall/BARK hide caption

On BARK Air, the drinks come in bowls, leashes replace seat belts, champagne is made of chicken broth and the bathroom is, well, anywhere.

“When they feel they need to go, they go,” Meeker said of the dog. “And then we clean up after them. And then we clean the plane between every turn.”

It’s one of the many unique perks — and logistical challenges — of an airline for dogs. BARK has partnered with a New York-based charter company called Talon Air, which provides the pilots, flight crew and plane, a Gulfstream V.

The jets accommodate 14 human passengers, but BARK is capping them at 10 to offer extra space. Meeker says it aims to make the experience as comfortable as possible for dogs, starting “even before the flight.”

BARK Air will do a “pup intake” to learn about the dogs’ temperament and preferences. On the day of the flight, humans are advised to show up an hour early to the terminal, where they’ll present their ID and walk straight onto the plane.

Do your kids want a dog? Science may be on their side

Do your kids want a dog? Science may be on their side

“And so what we've bypassed there is a busy commercial airport and a very rigid TSA environment, and treating the dog as just another piece of luggage,” Meeker said.

Dogs and humans get served their meals — and stow away their toys — before the flight takes off to avoid potential territorial disputes. Once in the air, dogs are offered perks like a spa treatment and blankets covered with pheromones for extra comfort. Meeker says the in-flight crew is trained in dog CPR and “fear-free behavioral practices.”

The airline has no dog size or breed restrictions, but humans must be over 18 (aka 126 in dog years). Once on board, humans are advised to keep their dogs leashed as much as possible and ask before approaching others’.

Meeker, who traveled with his dog on two recent test flights between Florida and New York, says people hoped the dogs would misbehave for purposes of the experiment — but they did anything but, even during moments of “pretty significant turbulence.”

“They calmed everyone down, they floated around, they'd take someone’s seat,” he said. “A strange dog, like, not your dog, would wander up, sit on the couch next to you, put their head in your lap, and it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s great.’ ”

He added, “I don’t know why I’m surprised by this, but the dogs made it magical.”

Demand already appears to be taking off

Stairs leading up to a plane, with a sign reading

BARK Air is partnering with charter company Talon Air to offer several flights per month. Some are already sold out for June and July. BARK hide caption

Meeker said the initial reaction to BARK Air’s launch has been “really overwhelming and positive.”

BARK Air is offering about four round-trip cross-country flights a month, with several already sold out for June and July. It’s already planning to expand its routes, starting with a New York to Paris trip beginning in the fall.

“About a third of people apparently buy their air travel six months in advance,” he said. “So we just published our schedule through the end of the year in order to serve that crowd better.”

The airline is soliciting requests for additional destinations, and Meeker said it received over 15,000 in the first week alone.

How to keep your pets cool and safe during a heat wave

They’ve heard from military families who are moving, people who travel for business and New Yorkers spending summers outside the city — all of whom want their dogs there too. Meeker also noted significant demand from snowbirds who want to go south with their dogs for the winter and many requests for flights in and out of Chicago.

“We're just processing that information and choosing the dates, and we're learning a lot,” he added.

He hopes the forthcoming data will allow the company to make more cost-effective decisions soon.

“We’re probably doing this the most expensive way we could, which is chartering a private plane from a private owner,” he explained.

The next step would be to make a longer commitment with the charter company, leasing the plane for a month or even a year to bring down costs. Even better would be buying and outfitting a plane. Meeker has his eye on a Boeing 747 model with a back half dedicated to cargo that could serve as an additional source of revenue.

He says this team already has a design that would feature private cabins with lay-flat beds, a central “dog park” and a bar, for dog and human socializing, respectively.

“That’s the dream,” he added. “But it’ll take a little bit of time to get there.”

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What share of global CO₂ emissions come from aviation?

Aviation accounts for 2.5% of global co₂ emissions. but it has contributed around 4% to global warming to date..

Flying is one of the most carbon-intensive activities — yet it contributes just 2.5% of the world’s carbon emissions. How does this add up? Well, almost everyone in the world does not fly. Studies estimate that just 10% of the world flies in most years. 1 But as incomes rise, this will change.

A combination of increased demand and technological improvements has driven the change in aviation emissions over the last half-century. Total CO 2 emissions are often explained through the “Kaya identity” — how many people there are, their income, the energy efficiency of economies, and the carbon intensity of energy. We can use a similar framework to understand the drivers of aviation emissions.

In this article, I look at historical changes in aviation demand, efficiency, and its contribution to climate change. Most of this work is based on an excellent paper by Candelaria Bergero and colleagues and another by David Lee and colleagues. Bergero’s paper also looks at future trajectories of aviation demand and emissions; if you’re interested, it’s worth digging into more detail.

Efficiency has improved, but increasing global demand has led to higher emissions

To calculate carbon emissions from aviation, we need to know three metrics:

  • Aviation demand: How many passenger and freight kilometers;
  • Energy efficiency: How much energy is used per kilometer;
  • Carbon intensity: What fuel is being used, which tells us the carbon emitted per unit of energy.

Multiply these metrics together, and we get carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) emissions.

In the chart below, I’ve shown trends in these relevant metrics since 1990. These come from the paper by Candelaria Bergero and colleagues, published in Nature Sustainability . 2

You’ll see that there is a blip in 2020 and 2021. That’s the sudden drop in international and domestic transport during the COVID-19 pandemic . Demand is rebounding quickly, and is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels again this year. For now, let’s ignore the unique period of the pandemic and focus on the trends up to 2019.

Between 1990 and 2019, both passenger and freight demand has approximately quadrupled. More people are flying, and more stuff is being moved around. In 2019, passengers traveled more than 8 trillion kilometers: that’s about the same as a light year. 3

At the same time, flying has become more than twice as energy efficient. Traveling one passenger-kilometer in 1990 used 2.9 megajoules (MJ) of energy. By 2019, this had more than halved to 1.3 MJ. This efficiency has come from improved design and technology, larger planes that can carry more passengers, and a higher ‘passenger load factor’. Empty seats are less common than in the past.

The carbon intensity of that fuel — how much CO 2 is emitted per unit — has not changed at all. We used standard jet fuel in 1990 and are using the same stuff today. It has not gotten any cleaner. Biofuels and other alternatives are just a tiny fraction of global demand.

If flying has become more than twice as energy efficient, and the carbon emitted per unit of energy has not changed, then it follows that the carbon efficiency of traveling one kilometer is also more than twice as high. In 1990, one passenger-kilometer would emit 357 grams of CO 2 . By 2019, this had more than halved to 157 grams.

How have the changes in demand and technology affected CO 2 emissions?

Well, if demand has quadrupled, but aviation has become twice as efficient, then emissions will double. The gains in efficiency have partly counteracted the emissions from increased demand.

In 1990, global aviation emitted around 0.5 billion tonnes. In 2019, that was around 1 billion.

Global CO 2 emissions from aviation have quadrupled since the 1960s

I was curious to see a longer-term perspective. To achieve this I extended the recent data back to 1940, using data from a paper by David Lee and colleagues. 4 This is shown in the chart below. Emissions have quadrupled since the mid-1960s.

Line chart showing the rise of global CO2 emissions from aviation.

Aviation accounts for 2.5% of global CO 2 emissions

I’ve calculated aviation’s share of global emissions using the time series above and total CO 2 emissions data from the Global Carbon Project . 5

You can see the results in the chart below. In 2019, aviation accounted for 2.5% of CO 2 emissions from fossil sources and land use. This share has fluctuated from 2% to 2.5% since the mid-1990s but with a marked increase since 2010.

Non-CO 2 climate impacts mean aviation accounts for around 4% of global warming to date

While aviation accounts for around 2.5% of global CO 2 emissions, its overall contribution to climate change is higher.

Along with emitting CO 2 from burning fuel, planes also affect the concentration of other atmospheric gases and pollutants. They generate a short-term increase but a long-term decrease in ozone and methane, and increased emissions of water vapor, soot, sulfur aerosols, and water contrails. While some of these impacts result in warming, others induce a cooling effect. But overall, the warming effect is stronger.

David Lee et al. (2020) quantified the overall effect of aviation on global warming when all of these impacts were included. To do this, they calculated the so-called “radiative forcing”. Radiative forcing measures the difference between incoming energy and the energy radiated back to space. If more energy is absorbed than radiated, the atmosphere becomes warmer.

Taking all of these effects into account, the authors estimate that aviation has accounted for approximately 3.5% of effective radiative forcing to date. Another study estimates that it has been responsible for 4% of global temperature rise since pre-industrial times. 6

Although CO 2 gets most of the attention, it accounts for less than half of this warming. Two-thirds come from non-CO 2 forcings. Contrails — water vapor from aircraft exhausts — account for the largest share. This explains why aviation contributes 2.5% of annual CO 2 emissions but more when it comes to its total impact on warming.

Aviation’s share of global emissions is likely to rise as other sectors decarbonize faster

Aviation is one of the hardest sectors to decarbonize. Electricity can become low-carbon through the deployment of renewables and nuclear ; road transport and heating through electrification . Even “hard-to-abate” industries such as cement and steel have emerging low-carbon alternatives. 7

Aviation is, by comparison, behind the curve. Global demand will likely grow in the coming decades as populations get richer. Therefore, the rise in emissions will be determined by whether aviation can maintain improvements in energy efficiency and switch to low-carbon fuels. So far, the sector has made almost no progress on the latter.

While more efficient planes can dampen some of the growth in emissions, they can’t eliminate them completely. To do that, the industry will need to move from jet fuel to electrification, biofuels, hydrogen, or a combination. Until it makes this switch, aviation will make up an ever-increasing share of global emissions.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Max Roser, Edouard Mathieu and Candelaria Bergero for their valuable feedback and comments on this article.

Gössling, S., & Humpe, A. (2020). The global scale, distribution and growth of aviation: Implications for climate change. Global Environmental Change, 65, 102194.

Bergero, C., Gosnell, G., Gielen, D., Kang, S., Bazilian, M., & Davis, S. J. (2023). Pathways to net-zero emissions from aviation. Nature Sustainability, 6(4), 404-414.

8 trillion kilometers is equivalent to 0.85 light-years.

Pre-1990 data comes from David Lee et al. (2021). Data from 1990 onwards comes from Bergero et al. (2023), as above.

Lee, D. S., Fahey, D. W., Skowron, A., Allen, M. R., Burkhardt, U., Chen, Q., ... & Wilcox, L. J. (2021). The contribution of global aviation to anthropogenic climate forcing from 2000 to 2018. Atmospheric Environment.

Andrew, R. M., & Peters, G. P. (2023). The Global Carbon Project's fossil CO2 emissions dataset (2023v36) [Data set]. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.10177738

The data files of the Global Carbon Budget can be found at: https://globalcarbonbudget.org/carbonbudget/

Klöwer, M., Allen, M. R., Lee, D. S., Proud, S. R., Gallagher, L., & Skowron, A. (2021). Quantifying aviation’s contribution to global warming. Environmental Research Letters.

Griffiths, S., Sovacool, B. K., Del Rio, D. D. F., Foley, A. M., Bazilian, M. D., Kim, J., & Uratani, J. M. (2023). Decarbonizing the cement and concrete industry: A systematic review of socio-technical systems, technological innovations, and policy options. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

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  • Premium Statistic Largest commercial airlines worldwide - ranked by revenue 2022
  • Premium Statistic Market value of selected airlines worldwide 2023
  • Premium Statistic Major airline companies 2022, based on customer opinion
  • Premium Statistic Emirates Group's revenue FY 2013/2014-FY 2022/2023
  • Premium Statistic Lufthansa AG - revenue 2004-2023
  • Premium Statistic Delta Air Lines - operating revenue 2008-2022

Specialties - flights and punctuality

  • Premium Statistic Global air traffic - number of flights 2004-2024
  • Basic Statistic Punctuality of global mega airlines 2022
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  • Premium Statistic Expected SAF required to reach Net Zero in the aviation industry by 2050
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Further related statistics

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  • Premium Statistic Business class air fares used by corporate clients - growth forecast 2011-2012
  • Premium Statistic Mexico: Los Mochis International Airport passenger traffic 2016-2018
  • Premium Statistic Mexico: airport operators - airports operated 2018

Further Content: You might find this interesting as well

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Did You Make Your Connecting Flight? You May Have A.I. to Thank.

Airlines are using artificial intelligence to save fuel, keep customers informed and hold connecting flights for delayed passengers. Here’s what to expect.

A map of the contiguous United States marked with airline routes between hubs like Miami, Boston, New York and Los Angeles, with red, orange, green, blue, red and purple areas that look like storm systems on a radar map. A hand is holding up a cellphone that shows the seating chart of a plane. A message on the screen reads, “JFK-LAX: Holding for Delayed Passengers. On-Time Arrival Projected” and “Gate 10, Seat 5A.”

By Julie Weed

Last month in Chicago, a United Airlines flight to London was ready to depart, but it was still waiting for 13 passengers connecting from Costa Rica. The airline projected they’d miss the flight by seven minutes. Under normal circumstances, they’d all be scrambling to rebook.

But thanks to a new artificial-intelligence-powered tool called ConnectionSaver, the jet was able to wait for them — their checked bags, too — and still arrive in London on time. The system also sent text messages to the late-arriving passengers and the people on the waiting jet to explain what was happening.

A.I. still might not be able to find space for your carry-on, but it could help put an end to the 40-gate dash — sprinting to catch your connecting flight before the door slams shut — as well as other common travel headaches.

It’s not just United. Alaska Airlines , American Airlines and others have been working to develop new A.I. capabilities that could make flying easier for passengers. The carriers are also using the technology to reduce costs and streamline operations, including saving fuel, said Helane Becker, an airline industry analyst for the investment bank TD Cowen . Although many of the airlines are developing their programs independently, a successful innovation by any carrier could possibly become an industry standard.

A.I. is poised to change almost every aspect of the customer flying experience, from baggage tracking to personalized in-flight entertainment, said Jitender Mohan, who works with travel and hospitality clients at the technology consulting company WNS .

Saving fuel and frustration

A.I. has been helping Alaska Airlines dispatchers plan more efficient routes since 2021. “It’s like Google maps, but in the air,” explained Vikram Baskaran, vice president for information technology services at the carrier.

Two hours before a flight, the system reviews weather conditions, any airspace that will be closed, and all commercial and private flight plans registered with the Federal Aviation Administration, to suggest the most efficient route. The A.I. takes in “an amount of information no human brain could process,” said Pasha Saleh, the corporate development director and a pilot for Alaska.

In 2023, about 25 percent of Alaska flights used this system to shave a few minutes off flight times. Those efficiencies added up to about 41,000 minutes of flying time and half a million gallons of fuel saved, Mr. Baskaran said.

On the ground, American Airlines and others are working on an A.I.-powered system American calls Smart Gating — sending arriving aircraft to the nearest available gate with the shortest taxiing time, and if the scheduled arrival gate is in use, quickly determining the best alternate gate. All this could mean fewer frustrating minutes spent waiting on the tarmac.

American introduced Smart Gating at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in 2021 and now employs it at six airports, including Chicago O’Hare and Miami International. The airline estimates it saves 17 hours a day in taxi time and 1.4 million gallons of jet fuel a year.

Mr. Mohan said that using A.I. as a virtual parking attendant could save up to 20 percent of taxiing time, with the highest benefits seen at the largest airports.

Faster and better customer service

Rapidly evolving generative A.I. — think ChatGPT — is helping airlines communicate with passengers better. At United, a companywide challenge last year yielded a plan to make texts sent to fliers more specific about what’s causing delays. Passengers can get frustrated when flights are delayed with no explanation, said Jason Birnbaum, United’s chief information officer.

But tracking the details required, composing an appropriate message and sending it to the right people for 5,000 flights a day would be too much for the staff to handle, Mr. Birnbaum said. Generative A.I. can process all that data and create messages tailored to conditions. For example, passengers booked on a January United flight from San Francisco to Tucson received this text message, along with a new departure time and an apology: “Your inbound aircraft is arriving late due to airport runway construction in San Francisco that limited the number of arrivals and departures for all airlines earlier.”

Having a more detailed explanation can calm travelers’ nerves. Jamie Larounis, a travel industry analyst who flies about 150,000 miles a year, recalled receiving text messages last summer explaining that a storm and a related crew-scheduling problem had delayed his flight from Chicago. “Getting a specific reason for the delay made me feel like the airline had things under control,” he said.

Generative A.I. is also good at summarizing text, making it a powerful tool for wading through emails. Last year, Alaska was among the carriers that began using A.I. to handle customer messages more efficiently. The airline’s system “reads” each email and summarizes the issues raised.

“We used to read first in first out, handling the requests as they came in,” said Mr. Baskaran, but now the system helps prioritize emails. For example, an urgent request involving an upcoming flight may take precedence over a complaint about a past one.

The system also helps a human agent decide how to respond, such as offering the customer a voucher, and it may draft an initial written response. “The person makes the decision, but it’s streamlined,” Mr. Baskaran said.

For all the benefits A.I. promises to airlines and passengers, the technology still has some shortcomings. For one, it doesn’t always deliver accurate information. In 2022, an Air Canada chatbot incorrectly promised a traveler that if he booked a full-fare flight to a relative’s funeral, he could receive a bereavement fare after the fact. When he filed a small-claims case, Air Canada tried to argue that the bot was its own separate entity, “responsible for its own actions,” but a tribunal found Air Canada responsible and ordered it to pay about $800 in damages and fees.

Still, as A.I. develops and airlines race to find more uses for it, passengers could see even more benefits. “As a customer and a business person, this is one of the biggest technology disruptions in the last five to eight years,” Mr. Mohan said.

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram and sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to get expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places to Go in 2024 .

An earlier version of this article, in a quotation from Vikram Baskaran, vice president for information technology services at Alaska Airlines, misstated the number of gallons of fuel an artificial-intelligence-powered planning system saved the airline in 2023. It was half a million, not half a billion.

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Open Up Your World

Considering a trip, or just some armchair traveling here are some ideas..

52 Places:  Why do we travel? For food, culture, adventure, natural beauty? Our 2024 list has all those elements, and more .

The Alaska Highway:  On an epic road trip, a family plots a course from Alaska to the Lower 48, passing through some of Canada’s most spectacular scenery .

Minorca:  Spend 36 hours on this slow-paced Spanish island , which offers a quieter and wilder retreat than its more touristy neighbors.

Japan:  A new high-speed train stop unlocks Kaga, a destination for hot springs, nourishing food and traditional crafts , as an easy-to-reach getaway from Tokyo.

London:  The Victoria and Albert Museum is a treasure trove of art and design. Here’s one besotted visitor’s plan for taking it all in .

American Airlines fires lawyers after blaming child for being filmed in bathroom

The airline said the legal defense was made in error.

American Airlines has disavowed a response from its lawyers that blamed a 9-year-old girl for using an airplane bathroom with an active recording device, allegedly placed there by a former employee.

The airline said that what it described as “outside legal counsel retained with our insurance company” made an error in filing a legal argument Monday responding to a lawsuit filed by the girl’s family. American has fired that law firm and replaced it on the case, the company confirmed.

The girl is one of several children whom Estes Carter Thompson III allegedly filmed in lavatories while working as a flight attendant. He was arrested earlier this year and has a court appearance scheduled for July 1.

American’s lawyers wrote that the child’s alleged harm had been caused by her own “fault and negligence” because of her “use of the compromised lavatory, which she knew or should have known contained a visible and illuminated recording device,” according to documents provided to The Washington Post by the law firm representing her family. American’s attorneys also argued that the airline cannot be held liable or responsible for Thompson’s alleged actions.

The child’s mother, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the nature of the alleged crime, said in an interview that she was “disgusted and appalled” at the airline’s initial response to the lawsuit. When lawyers for the family called to inform her of the legal filing, she said she was in shock.

“My first question was: ‘Are they really blaming my daughter?’” she said. “I saw red.”

The airline faced swift criticism for the filing, the latest chapter of the case that has generated widespread interest since Thompson was arrested in January .

“The included defense is not representative of our airline and we have directed it be amended this morning,” American Airlines said in a statement. “We do not believe this child is at fault and we take the allegations involving a former team member very seriously.”

The attorney representing the girl’s family said the airline’s statement was not credible.

“The company is only saying it was an error because of the intense media backlash,” Paul T. Llewellyn, a partner at Lewis and Llewellyn, a law firm in California. “That is what has caused them to change their positions.”

Llewellyn called American Airlines’ legal response “outrageous and depraved.”

Late Friday, the law firm representing the family said its attorneys heard American Airlines had replaced the law firm that filed the response. The airline confirmed the news in an email.

“As a result of the intense media and public backlash surrounding the outrageous allegation, we are not surprised to learn that American Airlines fired its law firm,” Llewellyn said in a statement. “With the benefit of this new legal representation, we hope that American Airlines will now take a fresh look at the case and finally take some measure of responsibility for what happened to our client. Otherwise, we are very confident that a Texas jury will do the right thing and hold American Airlines responsible.”

Thompson is in custody and awaiting trial in federal court for attempted sexual exploitation of children and possession of child pornography depicting a prepubescent minor. He was arrested in January and charged by criminal complaint at the time and was indicted by a federal grand jury in April.

Authorities started investigating after a 14-year-old passenger on a flight between Charlotte and Boston noticed that an iPhone was hidden in a lavatory Thompson had directed her to use last September. Investigators searched Thompson’s iCloud account and found four more examples from earlier that year where Thompson had allegedly recorded passengers between the ages of 7 and 14 using the restroom on planes, as well as multiple images of a 9-year-old unaccompanied minor.

The family of the 14-year-old who found the phone has also filed suit against American.

In the lawsuit involving the 9-year-old, attorneys wrote that their client and her family flew from Texas to Los Angeles in January 2023 for a gymnastics competition and Disneyland trip. The FBI notified the family almost a year after that trip that images and videos of their daughter had been found on Thompson’s iCloud account, the lawsuit says.

The family sued Thompson and American in Texas state court, alleging negligence on the airline’s part and asking for damages greater than $1 million. The young girl is “jumpy, nervous, and fearful in her interactions with other people,” the lawsuit says, and has a tough time trusting authority figures such as teachers.

The child’s mother said she had to tell her daughter about the initial allegation because the FBI warned that it might need to ask her questions. But she said she doesn’t want her child to hear about the airline’s response to the lawsuit.

“How can a child understand any of this — and the fact that you have adults who are blaming her for something a man did?” she said. “She would not even be able to comprehend it.”

The girl had to fly recently for her sport and couldn’t sleep the night before, her mother said. She asked whether the flight attendant in question would be on the plane or whether there would be male flight attendants working.

When the girl had to use the restroom, “I had to walk with her and check it out before,” her mother said. “That’s our new normal.”

airline travel by year

American Airlines fires attorneys who said 9-year-old girl 'should have known' she was being recorded in the bathroom

  • American Airlines replaced its lawyers after backlash over a bathroom recording case.
  • The airline is facing lawsuits tied to a former flight attendant accused of filming underage girls.
  • Previous lawyers argued a 9-year-old "should have known" she was being filmed.

Insider Today

American Airlines has new attorneys after previous lawyers said a 9-year-old should have realized she was being recorded in the bathroom by a flight attendant.

The airline is facing several lawsuits stemming from criminal charges against Estes Carter Thompson, a former flight attendant accused of filming underage girls by taping his phone to the bathroom toilet seat.

Police arrested Thompson after a 14-year-old girl noticed a phone with its camera flashlight turned on in the bathroom on a flight from North Carolina to New York in September 2023, police say. He is facing federal charges of attempted sexual exploitation of children and possession of images of child sexual abuse.

Related stories

The girl's mother previously told Business Insider that Thompson used "psychological tricks" to make her think the interaction wasn't strange.

Paul Llewellyn, an attorney representing the 14-year-old girl's family in a civil suit, is also representing the family of a 9-year-old who says Thompson also filmed her on a flight in January 2023.

Attorneys representing American Airlines in that lawsuit claimed in court records this week that the 9-year-old "knew or should have known" that the bathroom "contained a visible and illuminated recording device," absolving the airline of negligence.

Llewellyn called the claims "not credible" and said the airline should have never "taken this position in the first place."

The airlines later walked back the claims in court, amended the complaint, and issued a statement to Business Insider that said the defense was "not representative of our airline."

Now, American Airlines confirmed to Business Insider that the airline is no longer retaining the attorneys who wrote the complaint, offering no further comment on the change.

Llewellyn told BI in a statement that American Airlines switched attorneys "as a result of the intense media and public backlash surrounding the outrageous allegation."

"With the benefit of this new legal representation, we hope that American Airlines will now take a fresh look at the case and finally take some measure of responsibility for what happened to our client," Llewellyn said. "Otherwise, we are very confident that a Texas jury will do the right thing and hold American Airlines responsible."

Watch: 5 times unruly passengers disrupted flights in 2023

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  1. World air passenger traffic evolution, 1980-2020

    World air passenger traffic evolution, 1980-2020. Billion passengers. IEA. Licence: CC BY 4.0. International Civil Aviation Organization (2020). ICAO Economic Impact Analysis of COVID-19 on Civil Aviation. a) Historical figures are subject to revision and estimates for 2020 will be updated with the evolving situation; and b) For latest update ...

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    For the full year 2022, January through December, U.S. airlines carried 853 million passengers (unadjusted), up from 658 million in 2021 and 388 million in 2020. Annual: Systemwide enplanements (853 million) were down 8% from the all-time annual high (928M) reached in 2019. Domestic enplanements (751M) were down 8% from the all-time annual high ...

  3. Airline industry

    Global air traffic - scheduled passengers 2004-2022. In 2021, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the estimated number of scheduled passengers boarded by the global airline industry amounted to just ...

  4. Air Traffic By The Numbers

    Air Traffic By The Numbers. Every day, FAA 's Air Traffic Organization ( ATO) provides service to more than 45,000 flights and 2.9 million airline passengers across more than 29 million square miles of airspace. With an airspace system as vast and complex as ours, it is helpful to have an easy-to-reference source for relevant facts and information.

  5. Airline industry worldwide

    Published by Statista Research Department , Apr 15, 2024. The number of flights performed globally by the airline industry has increased steadily since the early 2000s and reached 38.9 million in ...

  6. Passenger airlines in the U.S.

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  7. Full-Year 2021 and December 2021 U.S. Airline Traffic Data

    BTS 12-22 U.S. airlines carried 674 million passengers (not seasonally adjusted) in 2021, 82.5% more than in 2020 (369 million, unadjusted). U.S. airline passenger enplanements in 2021 remained 27.3% below pre-pandemic 2019's 927 million (unadjusted). System-wide 2021 enplanements comprised 612 million passengers on domestic flights and 62 million passengers on international flights ...

  8. Air Passenger Market Analysis

    Demand for air travel stood high as the year started compared to the same period in 2019. Following a slight slowdown around Jan 8 2024, total ticket sales increased gradually to peak shortly ahead of the Lunar New Year. That increase was mostly driven by domestic travel ticket sales which remained elevated

  9. U.S. International Air Passenger and Freight Statistics Report

    The U.S. International Air Passenger and Freight Statistics report has been developed to provide the public with additional access to international aviation data. The report is restricted to nonstop commercial traffic traveling between international points and U.S. airports. Global air travel systems are comprised of complex, ever-changing ...

  10. Economic Performance of the Airline Industry

    We forecast that the value of international trade shipped by air this year will be $7.5 trillion, 15% higher compared to 2019, and it will rise by a further 7.2% in 2022. Tourists travelling by air in 2021 are forecast to spend $354 billion, 42% of the amount spent before the crisis.

  11. Air Fares

    Air Fares. Tuesday, April 16, 2024. This page presents inflation-adjusted and unadjusted average air fares since 1995. Averages are computed using data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics' Passenger Origin and Destination (O&D) Survey, a 10% sample of all airline tickets for U.S. carriers, excluding charter air travel.

  12. 50 ways air travel has changed over the last 100 years

    1987: American Airlines cuts olives and saves big. American Airlines decided to remove one olive from the salad plates service to first-class passengers in 1987. The move would save the airline a whopping $40,000 per year and has now become a famous tale of cost-cutting in aviation.

  13. The Busiest Travel Days of the Year, According to TSA

    July 30: 2.793 million passengers. July 28: 2.785 million passengers. July 23: 2.789 million passengers. June 30: 2.884 million passengers (the new record for the busiest air travel day ever in the United States) June 16: 2.785 million passengers. For reference, the busiest travel day in all of 2019 was November 27, with 2.882 million passengers.

  14. Travel Numbers

    TSA checkpoint travel numbers (current year versus prior year/same weekday) Passenger travel numbers are updated Monday through Friday by 9 a.m. Travel numbers during holiday weeks though may be slightly delayed. Date. 2024. 2023.

  15. Survey Predicts Air Travel Boom For 2024: What It Means For ...

    More people flying is good news for airlines. The IATA says passenger revenues are expected to reach $717 billion in 2024, up 12% from $642 billion in 2023. They predict that passenger yields, a ...

  16. Number of Flights Worldwide in 2024: Passenger Traffic, Behaviors, and

    2020 was the worst year in history in terms of air travel demand, with the rate for international travel dropping by 75.6% and domestic travel by 48.8% (IATA, 2021). Furthermore, the numbers are down across all metrics, from air traffic to bookings. A slight recovery is expected in 2021 but the outlook is still dim due to the persistence of ...

  17. Air Travel Statistics 2023

    In 2023, the busiest day for airlines was Friday August 11th, when airlines operated 18,586,233 seats. For context, the average daily capacity over the year was 16,582,222, making this peak summer day 12% busier than the average travel day. Conversely, the quietest day to travel by air is the third Saturday of the year, at least based on 2023's ...

  18. Air Travel Consumer Report: December 2023, Full Year 2023 Numbers

    Operated flights in December 2023 were up 10.35% year-over-year from the 547,134 flights operated in December 2022 and up 0.80% month-over-month from the 598,987 flights operated in November 2023. In December 2023, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 606,218 scheduled domestic flights, of which 2,462 (0.4%) were canceled.

  19. Global Outlook for Air Transport

    share of total airline revenue, however, is around 20% and double the pre-pandemic average. • The industry is returning to profitability in 2023, only three years after the historic loss of USD 140 billion in 2020. Total airline revenue is expected to recover to around 93% of the 2019 figure, with operating profits reacing USD 22.4 billion.

  20. Safety Record of U.S. Air Carriers

    Safety Record of U.S. Air Carriers. Dec 24, 2022. The U.S. government began publishing statistics on the safety of commercial aviation in 1927. While 1978 legislation eliminated economic regulation of the U.S. airline industry, it left safety regulation very much in place.

  21. U.S. screens record 2.95 million airline passengers in a day

    Last week, a group representing major U.S. airlines forecast record summer travel with airlines expected to transport 271 million passengers, up 6.3% from last year.

  22. Summer air travel 2024: The hurdles flyers will be facing

    United is expecting the biggest Memorial Day and summer travel season in the airline's 98-year history, according to Andrew Nocella, United's executive vice president and chief commercial officer.

  23. American Airlines claimed a child was at fault for being secretly ...

    After American Airlines in a legal response blamed a 9-year-old girl for using an airplane bathroom that had a recording device allegedly placed there by a former employee, the airline now says it ...

  24. American Airlines filing claims 9-year-old negligent in spycam case

    Ahjané Forbes. USA TODAY. 0:04. 0:31. American Airlines is changing direction after saying that a young girl was negligent after being recorded by a flight attendant in the lavatory. In the ...

  25. BARK Air, a new airline for dogs, launches its first flight : NPR

    The airline has no dog size or breed restrictions, but humans must be over 18 (aka 126 in dog years). Once on board, humans are advised to keep their dogs leashed as much as possible and ask ...

  26. What share of global CO₂ emissions come from aviation?

    Aviation accounts for 2.5% of global CO 2 emissions. I've calculated aviation's share of global emissions using the time series above and total CO 2 emissions data from the Global Carbon Project. 5. You can see the results in the chart below. In 2019, aviation accounted for 2.5% of CO 2 emissions from fossil sources and land use.

  27. Growth of global air traffic passenger demand 2024

    Published by Statista Research Department , May 22, 2024. In 2022, the global air traffic passenger demand grew by over 64 percent compared to the previous year, when the passenger demand ...

  28. How Airlines Are Using AI to Make Flying Easier

    Jamie Larounis, a travel industry analyst who flies about 150,000 miles a year, recalled receiving text messages last summer explaining that a storm and a related crew-scheduling problem had ...

  29. American Airlines backs off blaming girl for being filmed in bathroom

    5 min. American Airlines has disavowed a response from its lawyers that blamed a 9-year-old girl for using an airplane bathroom with an active recording device, allegedly placed there by a former ...

  30. American Airlines fires attorneys who said 9-year-old girl 'should have

    Paul Llewellyn, an attorney representing the 14-year-old girl's family in a civil suit, is also representing the family of a 9-year-old who says Thompson also filmed her on a flight in January 2023.