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U.S. Airline Traffic Plummet In November

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It appears United Airlines, Northwest Airlines and American Airlines were the carriers most serious about cutting capacity this fall.

United cut 14.2 percent of its capacity, or about one-seventh of its flying, in November compared to the same month in 2007. Northwest was down 10.1 percent, followed by American with a 9.3 percent reduction.

Only Southwest Airlines showed an increase in capacity, and it was a measly 0.4 percent. But all airlines showed a decrease in traffic, and only AirTran Airways and Delta Air Lines reported that they filled a greater percentage of their seats this November compared to last.

The big capacity cutters were also the big traffic losers, led by United’s 17 percent drop in traffic measured by revenue passenger miles. If you count passengers, United lost 17.8 percent of its actual passengers – or more than one passenger in six compared to November 2007.

Below are charts showing traffic, in revenue passenger miles; capacity, in available seat miles; and load factors, or percentage of seats with paying passengers in them. RPMs and ASMs are in thousands.

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