US airlines predict Christmas slump

The Air Transport Association of America is forecasting a 9
percent year-over-year decrease in the number of passengers who will travel
globally on U.S. airlines during the 21-day winter holiday travel season (spanning
18 December 2008 to 7 January 2009).The number of available seats
has declined 9 percent from the same period a year ago, resulting in full or
near-full flights throughout the holiday.

        “While planes will be at or near capacity over the winter holiday travel
period, the U.S. airline industry will see a decline in the total number
of passengers this travel season,” said ATA President and CEO James C.
May. “The decline is driven primarily by an extremely fragile economy
and falling global demand for travel.”

        May added that U.S. airlines will carry approximately 2 million
passengers per day over the 21-day period, with the busiest days
expected to be Friday, Dec. 19 and Saturday, Dec. 27. On these days, ATA
estimates that planes will average 90 percent full.

ATA Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich observed, “All signs suggest
that the schedule cuts prompted by high fuel prices in 2008 will deepen in
primarily due to the rapidly deteriorating economic environment and the volatility
of the industry’ cost of operations.”

ATA, once again, is calling for full cooperation with the federal government and
airports to ease system congestion during the holiday travel season.


        “We are pleased that the industry has achieved significant improvements
in on-time operations and in improving the customer experience,” said
May. “Carriers continue to work internally and with government to find
ways to further reduce delays, especially over the holidays.” May said
that airlines will remain focused on continuing to provide safe,
efficient air transportation.