WASHINGTON (AP) _ The slump in air travel will continue for another year, the Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday in its annual forecast for the industry.
Not until 2003 will airlines carry as many passengers as they did before the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the FAA said.
Beginning in 2004, the number of passengers is expected to grow by an average of 4.2 percent a year, reaching 1 billion by 2013, the FAA said. A year ago, the FAA predicted that U.S. airlines would be carrying 1 billion passengers a year by 2010.
In a separate report, the major airlines' trade group, the Air Transport Association, said the industry lost $7 billion in 2001, even after receiving $5 billion in federal grants following the terrorist attacks. The association said the industry won't become profitable again until next year.
``All parties involved _ airlines, airports, airline employees, government at all levels, and especially the federal government _ must focus on getting passengers and products back in the air,'' said Carol Hallett, president of the trade group.
``There is only one way to do so, and that is by providing a safe, secure, invitingly convenient and affordable travel experience.''
The airline industry has been pushing for some sort of tamperproof identification card to allow frequent flyers to speed through security checkpoints.
``What the airlines sell is speed,'' said David Swierenga, chief economist for the Air Transport Association. ``If customers are spending all their time in lines on the ground, it diminishes our product. You have to overcome that to get people back on board.''
Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta has pledged to quickly get passengers through security checkpoints. ``What we're saying is no weapons, no waiting, no more than 10 minutes at the security point,'' he said in an AP interview last week.
He said the Transportation Department is looking to prescreen some airline passengers, but is concerned about a sleeper cell of terrorists spending years in the United States to obtain the clearance.
And Kathleen Flynn, a member of the presidential commission formed following the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800, said passengers are willing to put up with time-consuming security measures.
``The American flying public understands what has to be done to make the skies safe,'' Flynn said. ``Passengers are responding extremely well to the heightened security and are not kicking up about it at all. They really want the top airport security that you can give them.''
Airlines cut their flights after Sept. 11. Partially because of the reduced number of flights, delays dropped by more than one-fourth, from 1.4 million in 2000 to 991,401 in 2001, the Transportation Department inspector general reported. Overall, 22 percent of flights by the major airlines in 2001 were delayed, canceled or diverted, down from 27 percent in 2000, the inspector general said.
FAA and airline officials say many of those flights will be restored as more passengers return to the air.
Louise Maillett, an acting FAA assistant administrator, said the temporary decline in travel gives airline and airport officials time to plan for future increases.
``We have to continue to focus on the issue of capacity,'' Maillett said. ``The growth shows we are going to be back in that type of system very quickly.''