Airline watchdog sees more summer travelers

More people will likely fly this summer compared with a year ago as U.S. airlines gain a record level of international passengers, an industry association said Thursday.

Airlines for America, the top U.S. airline industry group, forecasts that close to 209 million people will fly on the nation's carriers from June through August, up 1 percent from a year ago. That outlook includes 27 million international travelers, a record number, the group said Thursday.

"Our carriers' international competitiveness and their ability to tap emerging markets, where GDP growth rate is outpacing the U.S. or outpacing some of the European countries, is really what it's all about," said John Heimlich, chief economist at Airlines for America.

The summer is seasonally a strong period for airlines as people take vacations. This week, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines said revenue trends were improving for May after softness in March and April.

Staff furloughs at U.S. air traffic control towers during a week in April caused flight delays at some airports.

Airlines for America estimated that the furloughs disrupted about 7,200 flights over the six days they were in place, affecting travel for 600,000 passengers.

The staff cuts were suspended by the Federal Aviation Administration after passage of legislation allowing the agency to shift money within its budget to end them.

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