The economic crunch has grounded air travelers throughout the country. Now major airlines are grounding their planes.
“I think what the airlines are doing now is matching capacity with demand,” said ILM Director of Operations, Gary Broughton.
Airlines measure capacity in “seat miles”. That is the number of miles flown times the number of seats on a plane. Through the end of the year, the Air Travel Association predicts airlines will only offer 12.5 billion seat miles; the fewest since the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001.
Airlines say they are cutting flights to deal with the declining demand. In Wilmington, passengers say some flights have more empty seats than others.
Cutting back flights is something directors at ILM are used to dealing with. Most of the airlines add flights for the busy summer travel and scale back in the fall.
“It’s fairly well seasonal, we see it every year. Once the vacation season’s over, schools are back in and there’s just less travel over all,” added Broughton.
“Fewer travelers may mean fewer flights, but it also means less of a wait in line, and passengers we spoke with say they are more concerned with the price of a ticket than they are with the number of people on the plane.
“The less flights, the more likely the price is going to go up, the higher the price, the less flyers,” said traveler Rita Scull.
With fewer flights in the air, maybe more of them will stay on time.
Some airlines have been hit harder than others by the decline in air travel. Discount airlines like Airtran and Southwest have faired better, and Jet Blue plans to increase the number of seat miles they offer by the end of the year.