US sets another pandemic high for air travel at 1.64 million

Air travel continues to recover from the pandemic, although it's still not close to normal. The Transportation Security Administration said that nearly 1.64 million people were screened at U.S. airport checkpoints Thursday. PHOTO CREDIT: Charlie Riedel

About 1.64 million people were screened at U.S. airports Thursday, the busiest day for air travel since March 2020, the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

The previous pandemic high for air travel was reached just four days earlier and with the Mother’s Day weekend on the way, this record is likely to be surpassed quickly as well.

Air travel has yet to return to anywhere near the typical levels seen before COVID-19 brought flights almost to a standstill. In April and May, airport crowds were down about 40% compared with the same period in 2019, according to figures from the Transportation Security Administration.

Airlines began to register a pronounced uptick in bookings around mid-February, which they attribute partly to the nation’s massive vaccine rollout. Leisure destinations such as beach towns and mountain regions have been the most popular, while cities favored by business travelers have lagged behind.

Airline stocks rose today, with American, Delta, United and Southwest all gaining between 2% and 3% in afternoon trading.