Revenue Seat Miles

DEFINITION of 'Revenue Seat Miles'

The number of miles a plane flies multiplied by the number of passenger seats available per flight. Revenue seat miles, more commonly called available seat miles, are one of the air transport traffic and capacity statistics that airlines must report to the government under section 298.61 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.

BREAKING DOWN 'Revenue Seat Miles'

It is difficult to remain profitable in the airline industry, as evidenced by the chapter 11 bankruptcy filings of numerous major air carriers, including Delta, American and Northwest. Layoffs and wage cuts have plagued airline employees as airlines have struggled to deal with high operating expenses for fuel, aircraft, gate fees, pension funds and union labor contracts. Air travel also has high demand elasticity, so when customers experience a small decline in income, they will cut back significantly on air travel.