updated 2/14/2008 12:35:09 PM ET 2008-02-14T17:35:09

U.S. airlines carried fewer passengers in November, the first time in 2007 that traffic declined compared with the same month a year earlier.

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The airlines carried 59.9 million domestic and international passengers in November, down from 60.3 million in the same month in 2006 and from 64.2 million in October, according to data released Thursday by the Transportation Department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Through October, traffic had risen every month last year compared with 2006.

Still, domestic carriers served 706.6 million passengers in the first 11 months of last year, a 3.2 percent rise from the same period in 2006, and remained on pace to carry a record number of passengers for the year. Domestic and international flights were a record 80.3 percent full in the first 11 months of 2007, according to government data.

Playing to a full house, the airline industry kept its audience waiting and waiting. More than 26 percent of commercial flights in the U.S. arrived late or were canceled last year, the second worst showing since comparable data began being collected in 1995, trailing only the results from 2000, the Transportation Department said last week.

Southwest Airlines Co. remained the top U.S. carrier in November, flying nearly 8.3 million domestic passengers. AMR Corp.'s American Airlines was next with about 8 million passengers on domestic and international flights.

Delta Air Lines Inc. came in third with more than 5.7 million domestic and international passengers, followed by UAL Corp.'s United Airlines with about 5.3 million and US Airways Group Inc. rounded out the top five with nearly 4.5 million passengers.

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