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Air Traffic Declines Slower in August

The International Air Travel Association (IATA) reports that air traffic continued its decline in August, but at a much slower rate than in previous months. Global airline traffic fell by about 1.1 percent during August, compared to 2.9 percent in July.

Here in North America, traffic improvements lagged. Traffic declined by 2.5 percent in August, compared to a 3.2 percent decline in July.

Global airfares are currently sitting about 18 percent below where they were in August 2008.

Still, signs point to a possible rebound ahead. Fares here at home have been plummeting all year, and all this discounting, combined with capacity cuts, are leading to full planes and slowly improving traffic numbers.

This is good news for the airlines, but for customers, the outlook is a bit muddy. On one hand, travelers have enjoyed nine months of steadily declining fares, a trend that should continue into the fall. But if traffic continues growing on airlines that are flying between 10 and 15 percent fewer flights than they were last year, fares could begin to creep upward.

The wild card, of course, is the holiday season, which could see a spike in airfares or last-minute fire sales. Airlines are certainly looking toward November and December as an opportunity to bring in revenue. We’ll just have to wait and see if wallet-conscious consumers go for it. After all, we’re not out of the economic woods just yet.

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