International Air Travel From U.S. Recovering to Pre-9/11 Levels

NEW YORK (AP) -- Americans' appetite for international travel appears to be recovering as flights from the U.S. are nearly back to levels before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, an aviation industry consulting firm said Wednesday.

Demand for travel to Asia is particularly strong, the research shows.

American and non-American airlines are offering 49,188 non-stop departures from the U.S. mainland - excluding Hawaii and Alaska - to foreign destinations in April, about 1 percent less than April 2001, according to Back Aviation Solutions, based in New Haven, Connecticut.

Fewer Americans flew overseas in 2002 and 2003 amid concerns about terrorism, the Iraq War, the SARS outbreak in Asia and stressful airport security procedures. The number of international flights from the U.S. dropped to 42,915 in April 2002, Back Aviation said.

On a daily basis, the average number of international flights has risen to 1,638 in April from 1,361 in January 2002, research showed.

''The numbers suggest that we're finally getting back to 2000-2001 peak levels and that the concerns from terrorism and SARS have mitigated,'' said Michael Allen, chief operating officer at Back Aviation.

Ticket prices also are lower than they were in 2001, though prices have risen recently, Allen said.

Major U.S. airlines also are expanding international service because of less competition compared to domestic routes, according to USA Today, which first reported the figures Wednesday.

Flights to Asia from the U.S. mainland are up 17 percent this month from a year ago, thanks to increased business and tourist travel, Back Aviation said.

Separately, an Asian airline industry group reported a 7 percent rise in international travel in the Asia-Pacific region during the first three months of the year compared to the same period a year ago.

Seventeen international carriers across the region flew 30.6 million passengers between January and March, compared to 28.6 million in the same period last year, the Kuala Lumpur-based Association of Asia Pacific Airlines said.

Despite the euro's strength against the dollar, which makes travel to Europe more expensive for Americans, flights to the European destinations are up 6 percent from last April, USA Today said, citing Back Aviation.