Airlines add seats on optimism for 2011

Do you think body scanners and TSA groping will keep people off planes next year? Well, the airlines don’t think so! Carriers are adding seats and flights, according to USA Today, in the hopes that the travel industry will continue to improve in 2011 as it has in 2010.

Through November this year, the top 10 airlines in the United States added 2.7 percent more seats for passengers than they had a year earlier, USA Today reports, with 90 percent of the airlines adding seats “by increasing the number of flights or moving to bigger planes.” JetBlue added the most with an up-tick of 7.6 percent, followed by Delta, which added 5 percent more seats year over year.

Business travelers are leading the charge, it seems, with airline readiness bolstered by a few years of tough times:

With signs of improvement in the economy, travel demand, particularly from the corporate sector, is on the rise. After three years of retrenching in the face of higher fuel costs and fewer travelers, airlines are beefing up capacity incrementally on profitable routes. They’re adding slowly so as not to have to lower fares. They’re adding seats on international routes more quickly than on domestic routes.

And the good news for the airlines is that these aren’t loss-leader additions. USA Today continues:

“We’re growing in profitable markets. We’re not flooding the seats with low (fares) to manufacture a competitive situation,” JetBlue spokeswoman Jenny Dervin says. “The overall supply and demand is in good ratio.” Much of JetBlue’s added capacity comes from additional flights to the Caribbean and in the Boston market, Dervin says. Other carriers are also sharply increasing international flights.

International fares are up 30 percent to 50 percent, with domestic fares up around 15 percent year over year.

[photo by mrkathika via Flickr]