We’re Not Just Driving Less, We’re Also Flying Less

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s statistical arm today
released its latest tally of airline travel, showing that the number of
nationwide plane passengers has decreased from the previous year for a
record 13 straight months.

airline.jpgThis is a view fewer Americans are seeing lately. (Photo: ETF Trends)

The
DOT found that U.S. airline flights, both domestic and international,
had 61 million scheduled passengers in March. That amounts to a drop of
6.1 million — or 9.1 percent — compared with March 2008. The number
of international passengers on U.S. airlines fell by 12.3 percent, the
largest drop since the fall of 2001.

Airlines in Canada and Europe
are preparing to see similar declines in passenger traffic, which is
sure to send the industry into a tizzy. But the decline in air travel,
much like the decline in vehicle miles traveled, also could be an environmental boon given the high per-passenger emissions rate for plane riders.

What
do readers think: Is the decline in plane travel a sign of economic
distress, or a dose of tough medicine for airlines that should be
adjusting schedules to meet consumer demand?

  • I guess if I had to choose one I would say its a sign of economic distress. If all economic indicators are down there is less reason for business folks to travel.

    What I hope it means is that people want to travel less. They are making the connection that the oil we use to fly and drive is the cause of the 100 years war we are funding in the middle east. Thus, if they travel less, there will be fewer oil wars and a much stronger US.

    I also hope people are making the connection between the distance they travel and global warming. The polar bear is a super poster child to show concretely what is happening.

  • ZA

    I just hope this “shallowing” of demand lasts long enough the alternatives to moving a human being and their luggage to complete a transaction experience become more commonplace. That way, when ‘recovery’ is underway in the economy, it’s decoupled from burning dead dinosaurs to move widgets.

  • DaveO

    Of course it has to do with the state of the economy. Duh.

  • My company has shut the lid on business travel. Thing is, it’s not really impacting our effectiveness. The phone, email, video, and WebEx it turns out actually are a substitute for face to face meetings. Maybe face to face is a bit more effective, but is that differential worth the monetary cost, the lost work time due to travel, the lowering of morale due to time away from family? My vote is no. The gravy is that *everyone* benefits from less useless business travel.

  • Galen Maloney

    This is obviously a huge issue that is largely ignored by the “green” alternatives movement. The impact of airplane emissions on global warming may even be understated by this article. I would be very interested in learning about any studies or programs that ware seeking to put forth “green” airplanes or commercial airplanes that have a significantly reduced environmental impact. If we can build electric cars, why couldn’t we build electric airplanes? All we need is more devotion to R&D funding…oh, i can’t wait for world peace and consciousness to free up all those military budgets.

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