More people expected to fly this summer

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

(CNN) -- Get ready for more company if you're flying this summer, especially if you're heading overseas.

U.S. airlines will carry more than 206 million passengers from June through August, a 1.5 percent boost over the same period last year, the Air Transport Association of America announced in its annual summer air travel forecast on Monday.

That translates to 34,000 more air travelers per day than in 2010.

More than 26 million passengers are expected to travel on international flights provided by U.S. carriers -- an all-time high, according to ATA, which represents some of the country's biggest airlines.

"We're pleased and encouraged" by the numbers, said John Heimlich, ATA's vice president and chief economist.

"The key risk, of course, to the forecast would be a sudden macro-economic plunge or high and volatile energy prices."

That risk is low, though, because most people have already booked their flights for the summer, Heimlich said.

Airlines remain concerned about high fuel prices and how they will effect demand for and the cost of providing service. For the first quarter of this year, U.S. carriers paid more than $11 billion for fuel, up 30 percent from the same period in 2010, according to ATA.

Still, air travel remains a bargain, despite higher fuel prices, ATA said.

Last year, the average round-trip U.S. domestic airfare cost $316, just $2 more than the average fare in 2000, "a clear indication that fares have not kept pace with inflation," the group said.

But domestic air travel still hasn't fully recovered since the recession hit.

The total number of passengers projected to fly on U.S. airlines this summer is "substantially" below the all-time peak during the summer of 2007, which ATA considers to be the pre-recession level, Heimlich said.