U.S. air passenger numbers have exceeded 25 per cent of pre-COVID levels for the first time since March 19 according to new data from the Transport Security Administration (TSA). The new high in passenger numbers passing through the nation’s airports comes despite a recent spike in novel Coronavirus infections across several southern States and new self-quarantine restrictions imposed by the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on travellers arriving from states with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents.
The TSA reported a total of 625,235 air passengers had passed through airport security checkpoints on Monday, June 29. On the same day the year before, nearly 2.5 million passengers passed through TSA airport checkpoints, meaning passenger throughout stood at 25.46 per cent of last year’s numbers – a new record since ‘Stay at Home’ orders and CDC guidance caused passenger numbers to plummet in late March.
Passenger numbers have been slowly rising since they hit rock bottom on April 14 when just 87,534 air passengers were screened by the TSA. For the last two weeks, passenger numbers were hovering at around 20 per cent of pre-Corona crisis levels.
The new high in passenger throughout comes just days after both American Airlines and United Airlines said they would lift capacity caps on flights in a bid to promote social distancing. American will start selling flights to capacity beginning Wednesday, although customers will be notified if they are on a full flight and will be given the option to rebook onto an alternative service without incurring a change fee.
An American Airlines spokesperson said it was beginning to lift capacity restrictions now because it had implemented a number of Coronavirus protection measures including mandatory face mask rules and extensive cleaning initiatives.
“That’s the reasoning we ultimately feel it’s safe and prudent to lift these restrictions as of July 1,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times on Friday.
Both Delta, Southwest and jetBlue will, however, continue to block middle seats or limit capacity on its aircraft for the rest of the summer. On Tuesday, Delta said it would deepen and existing relationship with the Mayo Clinic to “provide additional safety and COVID-19 infection control measures for customers and employees”.
Delta has already announced a joint initiative with the Mayo Clinic and Quest Diagnostics to test every single employee for COVID-19. The airline recently announced that 500 staffers had been infected with the virus and 10 employees had tragically died after becoming infected.
Despite the continuing rise in passenger numbers, there could be more bumps along the road to recovery for U.S. airlines. At least 16 states, including the likes of Texas and Arizona, have now put reopening plans on hold after a recent surge in Coronavirus infections.
U.S. citizens will also be banned from entering Europe as the bloc’s leaders agree on border restrictions for countries with high COVID-19 injection rates. The United States did not make the cut of a list of countries from which travel to Europe would be permitted, whereas China did.
American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker warned staffers last week the airline would likely have an overage of workers of between 20 and 30 per cent by the Fall because of the continued slump in travel demand.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.