BTS Releases December 2012 Airline Traffic Data

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BTS 13-13
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Contact: Dave Smallen
Tel: 202-366-5568 

BTS Releases December 2012 Airline Traffic Data;
System Passengers Down 0.3% from December 2011  

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today that U.S. airlines carried 58.9 million scheduled systemwide passengers in December 2012, 0.3 percent fewer than in December 2011. The systemwide decrease was the result of a 0.7 percent decrease in the number of domestic passengers (51.2 million) and a 2.3 percent increase in international passengers (7.7 million). 

BTS, a part of the Department’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that U.S. airlines carried 0.8 percent more total system passengers during the full year 2012 (736.6 million) than during 2011. Domestically, U.S. airlines carried 642.2 million passengers, up 0.6 percent from 2011. Internationally, they carried 94.4 million passengers, up 2.0 percent from 2011. See Tables 2, 8 and 14 of Air Traffic Press Releases for previous-year data.

Additional traffic data can be found on the BTS Airlines and Airports page.  Click on a link in the Quick Links box on the right.  For more historical data, see Traffic on the BTS website.

Load Factor and Capacity

Domestic and systemwide load factors reached record levels for the month of December. The domestic load factor in December 2012 (81.5) increased from December 2011 (81.2) as a result of the year-to-year decrease in capacity, measured in available seat-miles (0.3 percent) combined with a growth in revenue passenger-miles (RPMs) (0.3 percent). Systemwide capacity also decreased 0.3 percent compared to a 0.6 percent increase in RPMs with the load factor increasing from December 2011 by 0.7 percentage points to 81.5 percent. International load factor in December 2012 (81.0) remained below the level of December 2009 (81.4) despite capacity reductions and RPM growth from December 2011. See Tables 1, 7 and 13 of Air Traffic Press Releases for previous-year data. 

Top Airlines

For the third consecutive year, Delta carried more total system passengers in 2012 than any other airline. Southwest carried more domestic passengers than any other U.S. airline for the ninth consecutive year and the newly-merged United carried the most international passengers. The top 10 US airlines carried 80.0 percent of systemwide passengers, an increase from the 75.5 percent carried by the U.S. airlines that were in the top 10 during 2011.


            See Air Traffic Release for summary tables and additional data. 


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