Fasten your seat belt: Record number flying this spring

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/19/fasten-your-seat-belt-record-number-fly
BYPhil LeBeau
Monday, 20 Mar 2017 | 12:01 AM ET
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Warm weather and an economy heating up mean a record number of people will be flying this spring.

Airlines for America, an industry trade group, expects 145 million people around the world to board a flight with a U.S Airline between March 1st and April 30th. The number of travelers is up approximately five million, or 4 percent compared to last year.

"With spring weather on the horizon, consumers are eager to travel and airlines are more than ready to accommodate the growth expected this year with additional seats, new aircraft and increases in staffing," said John Heimlich, Vice President and Chief Economist for Airlines for America.

With approximately 89,000 more passengers on flights this spring, travelers can expect packed planes. That may not be what people want to hear, but it's welcome news for airlines which believe they can end several quarters where passenger revenue per available seat mile (PRASM) has declined.

One factor to improving PRASM is an increase in airfares, which traditionally move higher heading into the summer. This spring, domestic airfares are expected to rise 2.8 percent compared to the same time last year from an average of $222 in February to an average of $256 in June according to Hopper.com, which tracks airfares.

The rise in the number of people flying is yet another example of strong consumer confidence convincing many travelers this is the time to hit the road, but Heimlich says there are other factors as well.

"A boost in U.S. employment and personal incomes and the highest-ever level of household net worth are also fueling the strong demand for air travel," he said.

This forecast comes after a record 823 million people flew on U.S airlines last year according to U.S. Department of Transportation. More 700 million of those passengers were on domestic flights.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com.

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