US Finally Surpasses One Million Daily Air Travelers

Filed Under: Security/TSA

It has finally happened — the US has passed the one million daily air passenger threshold for the first time in seven months.

TSA screened 1M+ 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 18, 2020, the TSA screened 1,031,505 travelers, representing the first time the country has passed one million daily air travelers in many months.

For some context:

  • On the same day of the week last year the TSA screened 2,606,266 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 11, 2020 (last Sunday), when we saw 984,234 ravelers

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 enter the 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 over a million travelers, which sets a new record for the past seven months. Personally I doubt we’ll see huge increases in demand beyond current numbers 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?

  1. So the 40% drop is essentially all international travel? Agreed that it won’t go up much more in the next months.

  2. Given the state of the economy (job market) we are probably reaching saturation point with very little business travel and International travel. I think the “COVID” factor is becoming less and less. Maybe more people are testing positive (because in part people are getting tests) but what the MSM won’t cover is overnight hospital stays and deaths. Are they rising?

    Today if most people feel the effects of a cold or even the flu they will go running to the doctor out of fear. A year ago they would used some over the counter medication and for flu like symptoms taken a couple of days off. As has been the case for ions. I’m assuming that if you have a cold and typical flu and get tested you will test positive.

    If a grossly overweight 74 year old man with a horrible diet and little exercise other than golfing and tweeting can easily survive this virus that is telling people that much of this has been hysteria misguided by incomplete information.

  3. I think people are beginning to realize they want to live their lives and not live in fear of something that has a 99+% survival rate. Wear a mask and travel about freely!

  4. @Lucky, I know this continues to be a copy/paste from the last post, but if you look at year/year % numbers, there was no “plateau” after July.

    The ratio of 2020/2019 numbers showed a slow steady growth since late July (except for some big spikes around Labor Day).

  5. For the week ending 10/18, the ratio of 2020/2019 screenings was 36%, up from 26% for the week ending 7/31.

  6. Agree with Reaper, while numbers plateaued in absolute terms during July / August its against a seasonal trend of lower numbers over those periods, so as a % of prior year there was definitely growth over that period.

  7. Yesterday I flew PHX-JFK on AA. The flight was 85% full, everyone was masked. Based on flying the past few weeks, I felt that this 1 million milestone was about to be passed and my hunch was right! But yes we won’t get much farther without international travel starting back up.

    Incidentally, we had a diversion to ABQ due to some drunk people (one with a peanut allergy who ate a peanut) and a fight that broke out on board. So….looks like flying is back to normal! And this wasn’t even on Spirit Airlines!

  8. Will be interesting to see. In terms of personal travel, it seems like people are starting to adopt an attitude of “I’m going to mask up and go on my trip” as opposed to cancelling stuff now.

  9. We know this disease is contagious but statistically the recovery rate is rather high. Yes there are potential consequences but we won’t know the full picture years if not decades from now.

    But lockdowns were never meant to be a permanent solution and more people will come to realize that as time passes. Lockdowns also have consequences. I can say an untold number of businesses big and small have withered on the vine here in Hawaii. Sure one can say what’s the point of a business if you don’t have your health. It goes the other way too if you’re facing financial ruin and about to be homeless.

    I intend to travel this winter and see family and friends.

  10. George N Romey! Tell that to my grandchildren! Tell that to my son-in-law! Tell that to my great granddaughter! Tell that to my face!
    I lost my daughter to that misguided hysteria you miserable excuse for a man!

  11. I’m sorry for your loss but yes I’d tell it to your face. As hard as it may seem people die and sometimes healthy people die for unexplained reasons. The government isn’t here to provide a risk free utopia. Government must make hard and often seemingly cold decisions on life and death situations.

    The truth is that if you are under age 70, in good health and decide to travel the most risky part of your trip will be the drive to and from the airport. If we know of someone killed going to and from the airport (and I do) we don’t tell people to stop traveling. Not to mention how about all of the suffering from airline employees (and many like them) with no paycheck coming in. You don’t think not having the means to provide for yourself doesn’t take a toll. I’ve been there and it does.

    Understanding basic facts doesn’t mean someone is blind to suffering. It means that decisions are made based upon facts, evidence and ultimately what’s best for a society. And yes you might not like it and you might be the person on the short end of the stick. And no I’m not miserable, I just accept nothing in life will always be 100% fair.

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