The U.S. airlines industry reminds me of that old story about the person who complains about the escalating costs of the price of a stamp.
Yep, a stamp.
“Forty-nine cents! Forty-nine cents for the price of a stamp!”
Yet, at the end of the day, you can walk into a post office, hand them two quarters and they will take your very important letter or business document from New York to New Mexico, from Monterey to Maine.
Forty-nine cents, indeed.
For as much as airlines sometimes gets the brunt of criticism—delays, cancellations, ancillary fees, seat space, leg room, no food …. well, you get the picture—it’s still the best thing going. As much as we want to complain, we’re still getting on an airplane. Almost a billion of us last year, in fact.
As they say in sports, numbers don’t lie.
U.S. airlines set new records in 2016 for the number of passengers carried, for the distance they carried those passengers and for the capacity that the airlines used to move them, according to numbers released by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).
It was the second consecutive year that the airlines set all-time highs.
U.S. airlines carried more than 800 million scheduled service passengers for the first time ever in 2016. They reached 823 million worldwide: 3.1 percent more than the 798 million they carried in 2015. Using the measure of revenue passenger-miles (RPMs), which includes both the number of passengers and the distance they travel, U.S. airline operations grew even more: With 933 billion RPMs, up 3.5 percent from 2015.
Airlines measure capacity using the number of seats and the distance traveled. In 2016, U.S. airline scheduled service available seat-miles (ASMs) exceeded 1.1 trillion, a record that was up 3.9 percent from 2015.
READ MORE Where Are the World’s Best Airports?
See, as much as we complain about that stamp, it’s the same with airlines. We should be as much in awe about aviation as we are with the idea that somebody is willing to take that important letter from you for just two quarters and have it across the country for you in a matter of days.
We carry on our love-hate relationship with airlines, but, really, how is that different from anything else?
This is an industry that pulls you from 26-degree weather in the morning in New York and has you sitting poolside in Las Vegas with a drink in your hand by early afternoon.
Listen, I get aggravated when I get stuck behind a bus on a single-lane highway. Our time—and place, for that matter—is important. Nobody likes delays, nobody likes a physically uncomfortable flight, nobody likes to pay for a blanket.
Yet, still, we fly.
823 million of us got on a plane last year.
When you sit back and think about the industry from a broader perspective and do a little research, you realize that commercial aviation helps drive $1.5 trillion in U.S. economic activity annually and accounts for more than 10 million U.S. jobs. Airlines are still the best thing going.
Maybe we need a stamp for that.