The airline industry’s recovery from the pandemic passed a milestone as more than 2 million people walked through US airport security checkpoints on Friday for the first time since the start of March 2020
DALLAS – The airline industry’s recovery from the pandemic passed a milestone as more than 2 million people walked through US airport security checkpoints on Friday for the first time since the start of March 2020.
Airline bookings have been booming since around February, as more Americans were vaccinated against COVID-19 and – at least within the United States – travel restrictions such as mandatory quarantines began to ease.
Recovery is not complete. Friday’s crowd was only 74% compared to the same day in 2019. However, according to the TSA, the 2.03 million figure was 1.5 million more passengers than the same day last year.
The 2 million mark represents quite a change for the travel industry, which was hit by the pandemic. There were days in April 2020 when fewer than 100,000 people boarded planes in the US, and the CEO of Boeing predicted that at least one major US airline would go bankrupt.
The fear of furloughs has largely gone away. United Airlines, which lost $7 billion and threatened to lay off 13,000 workers last, told employees this week that their jobs are safe even when federal funding runs out in October.
That’s because airlines like United are excited to salvage the peak summer holiday season. Airline executives say international travel and business trips are still very depressed, but domestic leisure travel is almost at pre-pandemic levels.
Airlines are recalling employees from voluntary leave and plan to hire a smaller number of pilots and other workers later this year.
Hotel operators say that with the increase in vaccination rates, they have also seen an improvement in bookings.
Hilton senior vice president Mike Gathwright said the company’s hotels were 93% full over the Memorial Day weekend. He said the company is “very optimistic” about holiday travel in the summer and a pickup in business travel this fall.
“Vaccine delivery, easing travel restrictions, consumer confidence — it’s all driving occupancy and improvement in our business,” Gaithright said.
Before the pandemic, the TSA screened an average of 2 million to 2.5 million passengers per day. The lowest amount of screening during the pandemic was on April 13, 2020, when just 87,534 persons were screened at airport security checkpoints.
As of the middle of last month, the average daily amount of TSA for screening was about 65% of pre-pandemic levels.
As the summer travel season approaches, the TSA is advising travelers to arrive at the airport with enough time to accommodate the increased screening times as passenger numbers are expected to draw closer and in some cases some Airports exceed pre-pandemic levels.