NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The airline industry suffered its largest drop ever in passenger revenue last year as a weak economy grounded many would-be travelers, an industry group said Wednesday.
The Air Transport Association of America said total passenger revenue for the major U.S. carriers fell 18% in 2009 versus the year before. It was the largest drop on record, exceeding the 14% decline in 2001.
The revenue decline was due to a 6% drop in passenger volume, and a 13% plunge in the average price paid to fly one mile, the ATA said.
"The global recession, accompanied by high levels of unemployment, hit air travel demand especially hard in 2009," said James May, ATA chief executive and president, in a statement.
But the outlook for the current year is a bit brighter. "Anecdotal evidence suggests a positive revenue trajectory in 2010," May added.
Still, he warned that the airline industry remains vulnerable. "We are seeing higher fuel prices as well, which could hinder recovery efforts," May said.