WASHINGTON -- The number of airline passengers in the United States is expected to exceed 1 billion a year over the next decade, further stressing a system already beleaguered with record numbers of flight delays, federal officials said.
Releasing its annual forecast in advance of a two-day conference beginning Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration reported the number of domestic and foreign takeoffs and landings by U.S. carriers, including commuter airlines, is expected to rise by 39 percent between 2000 and 2012, from almost 26 million to 36 million in 2012.
Those planes will be carrying 63 percent more passengers than now, the yearly number reaching 1.2 billion in 2012 compared with 733 million in 2000.
"The system is close to a saturation point," said Daniel D'Agostino, president of the Newark, N.J., Tower local of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. "There are plenty of routes up in the air. The unfortunate thing is these planes have to come down to the ground. Unless they build more runways, the capacity of the airports aren't going to increase."
FAA officials said they expect the economy to avoid a recession and resume its growth in the next decade, thus increasing the demand for airline flights for both business and pleasure.
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