The improving economy should help fuel a steady growth in air travel in the next decade, the government said Thursday in a forecast that might hold more good news for passengers than for airlines.
Continuing competitive pressure is expected to hold ticket prices steady, resulting in a slight drop in the amount of money the airlines collect per passenger per mile, Federal Aviation Administration officials said.
Overall, the FAA said it expects 501 million domestic trips this year, and growth of about 4 percent annually, leading to 754 million trips in 2006.
And by 2017, traffic should double to about 1 billion passengers, added Linda Hall Daschle, deputy FAA administrator.
In addition, the agency said U.S. carriers will take 17.4 million travelers on international trips this year, and forecast annual growth of 5.2 percent to 30.4 million by 2006.
The aviation forecast for 1995-2006 was released a day before airline industry officials were to gather for their annual forecast conference in Washington.