WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. airlines in 2011 operated the fewest number of flights since the hijack attacks on New York and Washington depressed air travel and accelerated the industry's worst-ever financial downturn, government figures on Tuesday showed.
The Transportation Department said major airlines, their chief low-cost competitors and the biggest regional carriers, recorded 6.08 million departures last year. Takeoffs were not that low since 2002, when they totaled 5.27 million.
Reduced operations and good summer weather, especially in the East, helped airlines post a 79 percent on-time rating in 2011, unchanged from the previous two years.
The overall number of flights by U.S. airlines have steadily declined since 2008 when the recession dampened travel demand. Most recently, stubbornly high fuel prices have prompted airlines to further cut capacity to reduce costs and maintain higher fares.