The Federal Aviation Administration projects that the total number of people flying commercially on U.S. airlines annually will reach one billion passengers by 2024, representing a 37 percent jump from this year’s traffic.
That’s three years later than projected last year – a milestone delayed by the U.S. and European economic crises.
The FAA also sees the cost of traveling increasing, but much depends on fuel prices and demand for air travel.
But for now, the long-range outlook is positive as the agency predicts greater fuel efficiency for airlines and fares rising moderately.
“Over the long term, we see a competitive and profitable industry characterized by increasing demand for air travel and airfares growing more slowly than inflation,” the FAA said.
The FAA released its long-term forecast this week, projecting airline passenger travel will nearly double in the next 20 years.
The FAA is relying on the report to emphasis the need for “NextGen,” the next generation air-traffic system pushed by the Obama Administration as a much-needed upgrade toward satellite-based tracking.
The current system is based on World War II-era radar technology – and not the modern GPS technology familiar to most Americans.
“Through NextGen, the FAA is transforming the U.S. air transportation system with the use of satellite-based technology that will help passengers reach their destinations more quickly, increase air traffic capacity, and enhance safety,” the FAA said.
New and more precise routes will also reduce fuel burn, carbon emissions, and noise, the FAA’s report said.
The aviation standard for measuring commercial air travel volume is Revenue Passenger Miles (RPM). An RPM represents one paying passenger traveling one mile.
The FAA projects RPMs will nearly double over the next two decades, from 815 billion in 2011 to 1.57 trillion in 2032, with an average increase of 3.2 percent per year.
The number of commercial operations at FAA and contract towers is expected to increase by more than 45 percent from current levels.
“More and more Americans are relying on air travel, and the Obama Administration is committed to making sure the U.S. can meet our growing aviation demands,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Our investment in NextGen is the key to getting passengers and cargo to their destinations more safely, faster, and with less impact on the environment.”
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