A new report from Airlines for America says that airline travel will be up 1.5% this summer from the same time last year. The group says approximately 210 million passengers will fly on U.S. carriers this summer -- including 29.9 million passengers on international flights, which is the highest number ever. Air travel "remains one of the best consumer bargains in America, given its superior speed and affordability," said A4A Chief Economist John Heimlich.
Gary Kelly, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, announced the carrier plans to boost its quarterly dividend and buy back $1 billion of stock. "Our balance sheet is very strong and our liquidity is very strong," Kelly said at Southwest's annual shareholder meeting.
The U.S. airline industry is improving its financial results, and several U.S. carriers have started issuing quarterly dividends to shareholders and repurchasing stock. Delta Air Lines, Alaska Air Group and Southwest Airlines recently announced plans to boost quarterly dividends. All three carriers have also embarked on stock buyback plans.
Alaska Airlines plans to fly the first load of Copper River salmon to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Alaska will deliver 18,000 pounds of salmon aboard a Boeing 737 on Friday, and a portion of the salmon will be used for a cooking competition. An Alaska Airlines executive will help judge the 2014 Copper River Salmon Cook-off involving three chefs from the Seattle region.
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly announced the carrier plans to add up to 50 destinations in the coming years and will complete its integration with AirTran Airways next year. "In 2015, all aircraft flying will be in Southwest livery and all employees will be in Southwest uniforms and badges," Kelly said. Of the 50 destinations, 25 will be added in the next three years. Shares of Southwest hit a 52-week high on the news, trading at $25.07.