Travel Trends

Estimated Full Year 2019 and December 2019 U.S. Airline Traffic Data

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Estimated Full Year 2019 and December 2019 U.S. Airline Traffic Data

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) estimates that U.S. airlines carried more passengers in 2019 than in any previous year. For the full year 2019, January through December, U.S. airlines carried 925.5 million passengers, the highest total based on comparable records since 2003. The annual number has reached a new high for five consecutive years. The 2019 estimated passenger total is up 4.1% from 2018, up 9.0% from 2017 and up 12.3% from 2016. Numbers are unadjusted with 2019 consisting of 10 months reported data and two months estimated.

Figure 1. January-December Passengers on U.S. Airlines - 2003-2019 Passengers in millions, unadjusted (000,000)

Month of December

U.S. airlines carried an estimated 78.2 million systemwide (domestic and international) scheduled service passengers in December 2019, reaching a new seasonally-adjusted all-time high, according to the BTS first estimate, up 0.4% from the November second estimate. The November estimate was revised down from last month’s release.

BTS estimated 68.6 million domestic passengers and 9.7 million international passengers on U.S. airlines flights in December. The domestic passenger number was a seasonally-adjusted all-time high.

Figure 2. Monthly Passengers on U.S. Scheduled Airlines (Domestic + International), Seasonally Adjusted, Dec 2016 - Dec 2019 (Nov 2019-Dec 2019 estimated) Passengers in millions (Seasonally Adjusted)Notes: 

Most recent two months estimated

U.S. airline traffic reports are filed monthly with BTS. See the tables that accompany this release on the BTS website for summary data since 2016 (Tables 1-24) and complete data since 2000.

This release is a statistical estimate based on U.S. airlines reported data through October. BTS will release a second estimate of U.S. airlines December air traffic on Feb. 13, followed by a release of the reported data on March 12.

Four measures of U.S. airlines passenger enplanements

Estimated December seasonally-adjusted

  • System-wide enplanements (78.2M) reached a new all-time, seasonally-adjusted, high based on the estimate compared to reported data through October and estimate for November.
  • Domestic enplanements (68.6M) reached a new all-time, seasonally-adjusted, high based on the estimate compared to reported data through October and estimate for November.
  • International enplanements (9.68M) were down 0.7% from the all-time, seasonally-adjusted, reported high of 9.75 million reached in June 2019.

Reported October seasonally-adjusted

  • System-wide enplanements (77.7M) were down 0.3% from the all-time, seasonally-adjusted, reported high of 77.9 million reached in July 2019.
  • Domestic enplanements (68.1M) were down 0.4% from the all-time, seasonally-adjusted, reported high of 68.3 million reached in July 2019.
  • International enplanements (9.64M) were down 1.2% from the all-time, seasonally-adjusted, reported high of 9.75 million reached in June 2019.

Estimated December unadjusted

  • Systemwide enplanements (78.4M) reached a new estimated all-time high for the month of December.
  • Domestic enplanements (68.9M) reached a new estimated all-time high for the month of December.
  • International enplanements (9.56M) reached a new estimated all-time high for the month of December.

Reported October unadjusted

  • Systemwide enplanements (78.6M) reached a new reported all-time high for the month of October.
  • Domestic enplanements (69.9M) reached a new reported all-time high for the month of October.
  • International enplanements (8.69M) reached a new reported all-time high for the month of October.

Table A. Seasonally Adjusted Estimated and Reported Passenger Enplanements Compared to Previous Time Periods, December Estimate

Seasonally AdjustedPassengers (in millions)Percent Change Compared to

Previous Month Previous Year Three Years Previous
December estimate 78.2 0.4% 3.8% 12.3%
October reported 77.7 0.6% 3.7% 12.3%

Export Table Data Table B. Unadjusted Estimated and Reported Passenger Enplanements Compared to Previous Time Periods, December Estimate

UnadjustedPassengers (in millions)Percent Change Compared to

Previous Year Two Years Previous Three Years Previous
December estimate 78.4 7.6% 11.5% 15.4%
October reported 78.6 4.1% 8.1% 13.1%

BTS Estimates

For seasonally-adjusted passenger numbers, BTS first estimates have averaged within 0.8% of reported data while second estimates have averaged within 0.6% of reported data.

For unadjusted passenger numbers, BTS first estimates have averaged within 1.0% of reported data while second estimates have averaged within 0.7% of reported data.

For an explanation of BTS’ estimate methodology see Air Traffic Methodology.

Reporting Notes

Data are compiled from monthly reports filed with BTS by commercial U.S. air carriers detailing operations, passenger traffic and freight traffic. This release includes data received by BTS from 73 U.S. carriers as of Jan. 7 for U.S. carrier scheduled civilian operations.

See the BTS Airlines and Airports page for additional scheduled service numbers through October for U.S. airlines. International data by origin and destination is available through July.

BTS has scheduled Feb. 13 for the release of the first estimate of January air traffic data, the second estimate of December air traffic data and reported data through November.

None of the data are from samples. Measures of statistical significance do not apply to the complete air traffic data.



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