US Approaches One Million Daily Air Travelers

The US is getting really close to passing the million air passenger threshold again for the first time in nearly seven months.

TSA screened 984K+ travelers yesterday

Since the beginning of March, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has provided a fascinating daily snapshot of how many travelers are being screened at US airports every day.

Well, yesterday set a new record — on Sunday, October 11, 2020, the TSA screened 984,234 travelers, getting ever so close to that million traveler mark. In fairness, it’s a long weekend, and that tends to cause more people to travel.

For some context:

  • On the same day of the week last year the TSA screened 2,555,333 travelers, so this still represents a ~61% decrease in traffic
  • The last day where we saw more daily travelers was March 16, 2020, when 1,257,823 people were screened
  • Demand really bottomed out on April 14, 2020, when we saw just 87,534 travelers, representing a ~96% decrease compared to the same day of the week the previous year
  • The next busiest day since March 16 was October 9, 2020 (this past Friday), when we saw 968,545 ravelers; as a matter of fact, three of the past four days we’ve seen over 900K daily travelers

Airports this empty may be a thing of the past

US airlines still have a long way to go

While it’s encouraging (at least from the perspective of airlines) to see air passenger numbers in the US once again approach seven figures daily, airlines still have a long way to go:

  • Growth in passenger numbers up until this point has been far from linear; for example, in early July we saw the US pass 700K daily air travelers, but then things mostly plateaued, and even regressed, for a couple of months
  • While we’ll no doubt see more people traveling to Florida and Mexico in the coming months to seek out warm weather (and airline schedules reflect this demand), otherwise leisure demand tends to be pretty soft in the winter
  • On top of all that we’re seeing coronavirus cases on the rise, and we’re also going into flu season

Short of something materially changing consumer confidence when it comes to coronavirus (like a vaccine) personally I think we’ll plateau around current numbers for a few months, and don’t think we’ll consistently see anything greater than the low seven figures until next spring at the earliest.

There will likely be exceptions for the holidays, but then again, fewer people will be doing big family gatherings this Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.

Could Cancun Airport immigration look like this again soon?

Bottom line

Yesterday we saw the TSA screen more than 984K travelers, which is a new record for the past seven months. I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a few weeks for us to get to the million passenger mark, given that this is a holiday weekend. Personally I doubt we’ll see huge increases in demand beyond that in the coming months. I certainly could be wrong, but that’s my best guess…

How do you think TSA screening numbers will evolve in the coming days, weeks, and months?