While it is not back to its pre-pandemic numbers, air travel during the holidays is rising again as numbers surge over the holiday weekend. This past Sunday, more than 1.2 million people traveled by air, the most since March at the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Despite seeing record highs in positive COVID cases, people still traveled to see families for the holidays. More than 3.5 million people traveled through TSA security checkpoints from Saturday to Monday, which is the most in a three-day period since the middle of March when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. However, these numbers might not hold up over the next few weeks and months.
Compared to years past, the number of holiday travelers was at a much lower volume in 2020 than before. In 2019, the holiday season saw approximately 2.5 million passengers pass through airports, more than a million more than 2020’s watered-down version of the holiday surge.
In preparation, the TSA required all employees to wear face shields while increasing the number of officers at high traffic locations to decrease security wait times.
In one of the hardest-hit industries by the pandemic, the temporary surge in travelers is a welcome sight for the struggling businesses surrounding commercial air travel. While passengers are expected to dip back down to 600,000 by Jan. 6, the TSA and FAA have been working tirelessly to ensure the safest possible measures are in place for air travel.
As far as modes of public transportation, airplanes are actually quite safe to travel in during the pandemic, so long as everyone is wearing masks and properly social distancing. As of a study conducted in October, only 44 passengers tested positive for COVID-19 via air travel out of approximately 1.2 billion passengers.
Like most other industries, it will take time for the airline market to bounce back. Once the vaccines are fully up and running in the country with proven effectiveness, then we might see a permanent uptick in travelers closer to the pre-pandemic numbers we were seeing in 2019 and before. One thing is for certain, though. The pandemic’s impact on the airline industry will be felt for years to come.
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