Southwest Remains Top U.S. Carrier
Associated Press 12.14.06, 5:25 PM ET
Low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines Co. continued to dominate U.S. skies in September, carrying more passengers than any other U.S. airline for the second month in a row, according to a government tally.
Southwest carried 7.5 million passengers that month, ahead of American Airlines Inc. (nyse: AMR - news - people )'s 7.3 million, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics said Thursday.
Southwest, which flies only in the United States, has been the leading carrier of domestic passengers since May 2003, but it bested American's combined domestic and international passenger figures for the first time in August, when it carried 8.7 million passengers to American's 8.5 million.
American carried more passengers than any other airline in the first nine months of 2006, with 74.5 million passengers, ahead of Southwest's 72.2 million.
Rounding out the top five for September and the year-to-date totals were Delta Air Lines Inc., United Airlines and Northwest Airlines Corp., the report said.
Southwest's 72.2 million passengers in the first nine months of this year represented a gain of 6 million compared to 2005, the largest gain of any airline. American carried 200,000 more passengers in the same period, while Delta carried 11.3 million fewer. Northwest also saw a decline, while United gained 2.4 million.
Overall, the industry saw a 0.8 percent drop in domestic and international passengers in September to 56.3 million, down from 56.8 million in September 2005, the third consecutive month with a year-over-year decline.
For the first nine months of the year, total passengers carried increased 0.3 percent to 561.9 million, compared to the same period a year ago, the Transportation Department said.
In addition, passenger revenue, measured as one passenger carried one mile, rose 2 percent in the same period, the report said.
The preliminary data released by the BTS also showed that domestic passenger traffic dropped 0.4 percent in the period, while international traffic rose 5.6 percent.