BUSINESS

Air travel during spring break is expected to set new record

U.S. air travel for this year's spring break season is expected to jump 3% over last year's, setting a new record, according to a trade group for the nation's airlines.

The expected surge -- a rise to 140 million passengers during March and April, up from 136.2 million during the same months last year -- was attributed to "accessibility and affordability of air travel" by John Heimlich, chief economist for the trade group Airlines for America.

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The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that domestic airfares dropped 6.2% in the three-month period that ended last September. But more recent numbers show airfares may be on the rise.

The nation's airlines have adopted three fare hikes in the first two months of 2016, the first two for $6 per round trip and the third for $10 per round trip, according to the travel site FareCompare. Also, travel app Hopper said on its blog that airfares jumped nearly 7% in February, and projected an additional 3.5% increase in March.

The rise in air travel, combined with a 40% drop in the price of jet fuel over the last year, is good news for the airline industry, which reported losing a combined $29 billion in the decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

For 2015, the 10 largest U.S. carriers reported pre-tax earnings of $23.2 billion, with a profit margin of 14.6%, up from 6% in 2014, according to Airlines for America.

During March and April, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is expected to be the nation's busiest, followed by O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport, the trade group predicted.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin

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