FAA Forecast Predicts Air Travel to Double in Two Decades

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released its annual forecast predicting that air travel will more than double in the next 20 years. It says the report underscores the need to keep the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) on track to accommodate future growth.

“We need to invest in aviation today to make sure America’s economy remains competitive,” says U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Innovative NextGen technology will help meet the demands of the future by getting passengers to their destinations safely and more quickly.”

Today’s release of the FAA Aerospace Forecast Fiscal Years 2011-2031 predicts that U.S. airlines will reach the one billion passengers-per-year mark by 2021, two years earlier than last year’s prediction of 2023.

Through NextGen, the FAA is transforming the U.S. aviation system from radar- to satellite-based systems that will help passengers reach their destinations more quickly and will increase capacity and safety.  New, more precise routes will also reduce fuel burn, carbon emissions and noise.

“We are already seeing the tangible safety and efficiency benefits of NextGen,” says FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “Only a modernized air transportation system will be able to keep up with our forecasted demand.”

The aviation standard to measure air travel volume is Revenue Passenger Miles (RPM) or one paying passenger traveling one mile.  According to the forecast, RPMs are projected to more than double over the next two decades, from 787 billion in 2010 to 1.7 trillion in 2031.

The FAA 20-year forecast predicts the number of passengers traveling on U.S. airlines will increase by 3.5 percent from last year to 737.4 million passengers in 2011. That figure is projected to grow an average of 2.8 percent each year during the remaining forecast period to 1.3 billion by 2031.

Total landings and takeoffs at FAA towered airports are forecast to slightly decrease in 2011, and then grow at an average annual rate of 1.6 percent each year, reaching 69.4 million in 2031. 

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