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Marketplace Morning Report

Air travel is up

Rachel Dornhelm Sep 18, 2006
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SCOTT JAGOW: Maybe flying was never fun, but I seem to remember a time when it was kind of a pleasant experience. I just flew last week, and in no way, shape or form was it pleasant. The transportation department just gave us some airline statistics from the first half of the year, so now, I know why it wasn’t such a good time. Here’s Rachel Dornhelm:


RACHEL DORNHELM: Forget snakes, the data suggest airline passengers feel like sardines on a plane.

The number of air travelers was up from the year before while the number of flights fell. But this allowed many airlines to begin their ascent to profitability.

Industry analyst George Novak says part of this shift is carriers replacing aging aircraft with regional jets.

GEORGE NOVAK: Also the air carriers are getting smarter about how they schedule these flights, where they put their larger aircraft and where they put their smaller aircraft. They’ve cut back service to some cities.

To turn a profit airlines generally have to fill at least 75% of their seats. This summer passenger loads hit the high 80s.

Still Novak warns the recipe may be working now, but it is a volatile industry. Terrorism or a spike in fuel costs are just two factors that could leave airline profit margins squeezed — like their passengers.

I’m Rachel Dornhelm for Marketplace.

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