Air travel is expected to double over the next 20 years, and the U.S. will hit 1 billion passengers per year by 2021, according to a new FAA forecast. This rise in air travel demand underscores the importance of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) to accommodate this growth, according to the agency.
At its annual Forecast Conference in Washington, D.C., FAA said it projects air travel volume, as measured in revenue passenger miles (RPM), to more than double over the next two decades, from 787 billion in 2010 to 1.7 trillion in 2031. The 20-year forecast predicts the number of passengers traveling on U.S. airlines will increase by 3.5 percent from last year to 737.4 million passengers in 2011. That figure is projected to grow an average of 2.8 percent each year during the remaining forecast period to 1.3 billion by 2031.
“We need to invest in aviation today to make sure America’s economy remains competitive,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Innovative NextGen technology will help meet the demands of the future by getting passengers to their destinations safely and more quickly.”
“We are already seeing the tangible safety and efficiency benefits of NextGen,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “Only a modernized air transportation system will be able to keep up with our forecasted demand.”
Total landings and takeoffs at FAA towered airports are forecast to slightly decrease in 2011, and then grow at an average annual rate of 1.6 percent each year, reaching 69.4 million in 2031.