The recovery of the airline industry from the pandemic took a significant step forward as more than 2 million people passed through security checkpoints at US airports on Friday for the first time since early March 2020.
The Transportation Security Administration announced on Saturday that 2.03 million travelers were screened at airport checkpoints on Friday. It was the first time in 15 months that the number of security checks exceeded 2 million in a single day.
Airline bookings have picked up since around February as more Americans have been vaccinated against Covid-19 and – at least in the United States – travel restrictions such as mandatory quarantines have started to ease. .
Recovery is not complete. Crowds on Friday were only 74% of the volume compared to the same day in 2019. However, the 2.03 million figure was 1.5 million more travelers than on the same day last year, according to the TSA. .
The 2 million mark represents a hell of a turnaround for the travel industry, which has been hammered by the pandemic. There were days in April 2020 when fewer than 100,000 people boarded planes in the United States, and the CEO of Boeing predicted that at least one major American airline would go bankrupt.
Most airlines are still losing money. Southwest posted narrow first-quarter profit on its share of $ 64 billion in federal pandemic aid to the industry, and more are expected to follow suit later this year. But the fear of large-scale holidays is gone. United Airlines, which lost $ 7 billion and threatened to lay off 13,000 workers last fall, told its employees this week their jobs were secure even when federal money ran out in October.
That’s because airlines like United are optimistic about recovering from the peak summer vacation season. International travel and business travel are still deeply depressed, but domestic leisure travel is roughly back to pre-pandemic levels, airline officials say.
Airlines are reminding employees of voluntary time off and plan to hire a small number of pilots and other workers later this year.
Hoteliers also say they have seen bookings improve as vaccination rates rise. Mike Gathright, senior vice president of Hilton, said the company’s hotels were 93% full over Memorial Day weekend. He said the company was “very optimistic” about leisure travel this summer and a resumption of business travel this fall.
“The distribution of vaccines, the relaxed travel restrictions, consumer confidence – all of these are driving occupancy and improving our business,” said Gathright.
Before the pandemic, TSA screened an average of 2 million to 2.5 million travelers per day. The lowest screening volume during the pandemic occurred on April 13, 2020, when only 87,534 people were screened at airport security checkpoints.
As of the middle of last month, the average daily volume of TSA for screenings was around 65% of pre-pandemic levels.