U.S. airlines set record for filled seats and international travelers

The rate of filled seats rose to 83.4%, a record

The rebound for the airline industry continues, with U.S. carriers reporting record high rates of filled seats and total international travelers in 2014, according to federal statistics released Thursday.

More than 98 million passengers traveled to international destinations on U.S. airlines in 2014, the highest total on record, while 662 million flew on domestic flights, the highest total since 2007, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The percentage of seats filled in 2014 rose to 83.4% -- another record -- from 83% in 2013, according to the federal agency.

The latest numbers show how far the industry has climbed since 2009, when the economic recession pushed total domestic travel numbers down to 618 million and international travelers slid to 83 million.

The latest data also come as airline executives fight off calls by airport managers and tourism leaders to raise passenger fees on airline tickets to pay for airport modernization programs.

The Obama administration has proposed increasing a passenger facility charge from $4.50 per flight segment to $8 to pay for upgrades at airports across the country. The airlines have launched a campaign to kill the fee increase plan, saying it will push down air travel demand.

But airport managers and the U.S. Travel Assn. say the airport upgrades are needed to help make flying more enjoyable.

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

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