We’re Not Just Driving Less — We’re Also Flying Less

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s statistical arm today released its latest tally of airline travel, showing that the number of nationwide plane passengers has decreased from the previous year for a record 13 straight months.

airline.jpgThis is a view fewer Americans are seeing lately. (Photo: ETF Trends)

The DOT found that U.S. airline flights, both domestic and international, had 61 million scheduled passengers in March. That amounts to a drop of 6.1 million — or 9.1 percent — compared with March 2008. The number of international passengers on U.S. airlines fell by 12.3 percent, the largest drop since the fall of 2001.

Airlines in Canada and Europe are preparing to see similar declines in passenger traffic, which is sure to send the industry into a tizzy. But the decline in air travel, much like the decline in vehicle miles traveled, also could be an environmental boon given the high per-passenger emissions rate for plane riders.

What do readers think: Is the decline in plane travel a sign of economic distress, or a dose of tough medicine for airlines that should be adjusting schedules to meet consumer demand?