Airlines expect record passenger counts in March and April

Airlines in the U.S. are projected to experience record traffic this spring, according to a release issued Monday by Airlines for America, a trade group for the airline industry.

A record 145 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines globally between March 1 and April 30, an increase of 4 percent over last year, according to the group. Airlines are adding 110,000 seats per day to accommodate 89,000 additional daily passengers for the two months.

Kansas City, St. Louis see spikes

The rise in air traffic across the U.S. has also been seen at Missouri’s largest airports.

More than 11 million passengers traveled through Kansas City International Airport in 2016, an increase of about 5 percent, or half a million passengers, from 2015. Last month, 762,154 passengers used the airport, up about 4.2 percent from 731,538 last February.

At St. Louis Lambert International Airport, 2016 marked an eight-year high for passenger traffic, with 14 million passengers. That was a 10 percent increase over 2015.

Decreased fuel costs, increased routes

John Heimlich, chief economist for Airlines for America, said historically low fares combined with rising incomes and employment contributed to the rise in traffic. Lower fares were driven by a decline in jet fuel prices, from $2.92 a gallon at the beginning of 2014 to $1.50 in 2015 and $0.93 in 2016. However, fuel prices steadily increased over 2016 to $1.50 a gallon in January 2017.

Airlines added routes and increased capacity at airports in 2016, with the year bringing a net addition of 37 nonstop routes. So far in 2017, airlines have added a net of 17 new routes.

A total of 823 million passengers rode U.S. airlines in 2016, an all-time high and a 3 percent increase over 2015. The industry’s pre-tax earnings totaled $22.3 billion, down about $1 billion from 2015, as lower fuel costs were offset by a rise in operating costs, Airlines for America said.

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