U.S. Airlines handled 823 million passengers in 2016, setting a new record, according to Department of Transportation, and topping the 2015 total of 798.2 million passengers.
Some 719 million passengers traveled on domestic flights while another 103.9 million traveled internationally, reported the depatment's Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
The flight information was compiled from monthly reports filed with the bureau from commercial U.S. air carriers detailing operations, passenger traffic and freight traffic. The bureau stated that 82 carriers contributed to the report.
"We not only set a new all-time high beating last year, but eclipsed it by a healthy margin," John Heimlich, chief economist for the trade group Airlines for America, told USA Today. The trade group represents most of the large carriers.
"We've had two consecutive years of fairly significant airfare declines, and a couple of consecutive years of record capital expenditures putting money back into the product," said Heimlich.
Even though passenger travel was at an all-time high, there were more empty seats as airlines responded to additional travelers by increasing seat availability, noted the statistics bureau. The passenger plans load factor, the measure of the use of airline capacity, declined from 83.8 percent in 2015 to 83.4 percent in 2016.
USA Today said the airlines also improved in several areas of customer satisfaction, including a decline in 2016 of canceled flights, passengers bumped from oversold flights, and mishandled bags.
That appears to correspond with a survey released in February by Airlines for America in which 85 percent of 2016 passengers interviewed said they were either "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with their experience, up from 80 percent in 2015.
Six percent of the interviewees in the survey said they were either "somewhat dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied," which was unchanged from 2015.
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