U.S. News

Corrected: Airlines expect stronger summer travel season

(corrects international demand increase to 7 pct, 26 million passengers)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. airlines expect to fly 2.2 million passengers per day globally this summer, slightly more than last year, an industry trade group said on Wednesday.

The Air Transport Association said carriers expect to fly about 202 million passengers between June 1 and August 1 with international travel expected to strongly outpace domestic flying.

“We would like to see more growth, but this slight uptick in the number of air travelers is a positive sign for an economy and an industry recovery,” said James May, ATA’s president and chief executive.

The spring and summer travel season is the busiest of the year for airlines, which have cut the number of seats for sale and increased fares to boost revenues.

Expected domestic travel should remain flat at about 176 million passengers with international demand reaching 26 million, a 7 percent increase, trade group estimates show.

The projected daily average of 2.2 million passengers is roughly 1 percent better than last year and below the record 2.3 million flown in 2007.

Airlines continue to struggle financially but are better off than they were a year ago with demand rebounding in an overall improving economy.

May said jet fuel prices continue to be a drag on the bottom line with prices expected to be 20 percent higher this summer compared with the same period last year.

U.S. passenger and cargo airlines spent $32 billion on fuel in 2009.

Reporting by John Crawley, editing by Bernard Orr and Carol Bishopric