This past Sunday a major milestone was reached in U.S. air travel. The Transportation Security Administration reported that 1.34 million people passed through checkpoints at U.S. airports on that day.
This was slightly more passengers than the TSA had screened on the comparable Sunday a year ago. But what makes the figure particularly newsworthy is this: It’s the first time that the number of people flying in the United States has eclipsed the year-ago figure since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in this country.
Even more encouraging, Sunday was the fourth straight day that the TSA had reported more than 1 million people passing through its checkpoints.
The TSA’s seven-day moving average of passenger traffic has now reached its highest level since March 2020, when air travel essentially collapsed in the wake of the spread of COVID-19.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the amount of air travel is anything near the levels that were typically seen in 2019, the year before the pandemic struck. Indeed, daily traffic is still off by 45% to 55% compared to two years ago.
Looking back over the past year, there have been a few occasions where air traffic has edged higher, only to recede again. But those brief upticks were charted during the holidays. This time, the recovery seems real, according to Ed Bastian, the CEO of Delta Air Lines.
Southwest Airlines reports the same dynamics, citing increased leisure trip bookings.
On the other hand, business travel continues to lag — big time. But taken as a whole, the market is looking up. And that’s the best news the U.S. airline industry has had seemingly in eons.
What about you? How have your feelings evolved regarding air travel, and are you making plans for air travel in the coming weeks or months?