About half of the US population took an airline flight last year, nearly doubling the ratio from 40 years ago, as air travel continued its steady year-over-year growth in 2017, according to the trade group Airlines for America.

For business travellers, that means a lot more company at the airport and on flights — but not necessarily from others travelling for work.

The trend applies to nearly every segment of the population: air travel increased across ages and incomes apart from those making $150,000 or more annually (a very high proportion of whom already fly). Airlines for America attributed the trend to greater availability of airfare choices, from bare-bones to premium.

“Airlines continue to adapt to a highly price-sensitive American public by ensuring that passengers of all income levels can choose the services and price points that meet their individual needs, making air travel affordable and accessible to everyone,” said trade group vice president and chief economist John Heimlich.

Those who flew tended to do so often, the report noted, taking an average of 5.3 flights in 2017.

“In this year’s survey we found that almost half, 48 per cent, of Americans flew in 2017, and the large majority of those trips, 71 per cent, were for personal reasons,” noted Chris Jackson, vice president of Ipsos Public Affairs, which conducted the survey.

“Compared to air travel of a generation ago that was heavily focused on those traveling for business, this shows that Americans view air travel as widely available and accessible and a principal form of intercity and international transportation.”

The survey also found that while leisure travellers favoured cost over all other considerations, business travellers viewed frequent-flyer programmes and flight schedules as more important.