* Airlines fly fewer flights, fuller planes
* US airlines flew 631 mln passengers domestically in 2009
* Fleet changes small with few orders in the pipeline
WASHINGTON, March 9 Ongoing efforts by airlines
to cut seats and flights will again ease pressure on the U.S.
air traffic system in 2010, officials said on Tuesday.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which oversees
the nation's air traffic network, forecast a 2.2 percent annual
decline in takeoffs and landings by mainline, or major, and
regional airlines this year. The projection follows a 6.9
percent drop in 2009.
Airlines continue to slash the number of available seats
and are flying fuller and larger planes to control costs and
improve pricing power on fares.
Mainline and regional airlines flew 631 million passengers
on domestic flights in 2009.
The number of passengers expected to fly on those routes
this year is expected to increase 0.4 percent, the FAA said.
Regional airlines will account for the growth, while major
carriers are expected to board nearly 1 percent fewer
The total number of passengers for international travel on
U.S. and overseas airlines is projected to grow 3.3 percent
this year from 147 million in 2009, a lone bright spot for the
industry. U.S. carriers handled about half the total last
Asia-Pacific is the fastest-growing region, the FAA said.
The mainline fleet of 3,666 planes is expected to shrink by
17 planes, or 0.5 percent, in 2010, with most of the decline
due to the grounding of less fuel efficient models.
There are few new orders and most are going to replace
planes, not expand operations, the FAA said.
(Reporting by John Crawley; Editing by Richard Chang)