U.S. airlines carried an average of more than 1 million passengers a day in the past week, the highest non-holiday total since the covid-19 pandemic began gutting travel demand in the country almost a year ago.
Sunday’s total of 1.28 million was the third highest since travel collapsed in mid-March 2020, according to data reported by the Transportation Security Administration.
The airline industry remains severely depressed compared to before the pandemic erupted. Passenger volumes in the past week were 56% below the equivalent week in 2019, the most recent period that wasn’t depressed by the coronavirus, according to the Airlines for America trade group.
That number has crept up, but only slowly. In the week ended Feb. 28, passengers were 57% below pre-pandemic levels, according to A4A.
While new diagnoses of covid-19 infection have dropped substantially since earlier this winter, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to warn against unnecessary travel. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser on the pandemic, said this is no time to relax vigilance because cases remain “very high,” speaking Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
More than 1 million people passed through U.S. airport security screening in four of the past seven days, according to TSA. The only equivalent periods with that many fliers since March 17, 2020, have been during the traditionally busy Thanksgiving and Christmas periods.
The increase tracks a seasonal pattern of growing travel that occurs in March each year when many schools are on spring break, according to A4A data.