Airlines are in a high-grade crisis mode as passenger demand continues to fall. The problem, I keep hearing, is no one yet has a sense of "where the bottom is." And so far, fare sales aren't doing much to get more people flying.
The situation really deteriorated in February, as almost every domestic airline reported sharp drops in traffic and sagging load factors, even though they're all cutting capacity.
Data released today by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics show that the slump in demand has been protracted, and it began before the economy went off the cliff in the fall. December (traffic off 5.7 percent, in fact, was the 10th consecutive month that passenger traffic fell compared with the same month a year earlier, the BTS said.
Full year 2008 passenger traffic (people boarding U.S. airlines in the U.S. for either domestic or international flights, was 741.4 million, which was 28.2 million fewer passengers than in 2007 and marked the first year-to-year decline since 2002.