Shares of US airlines lifted off Monday morning after data this past weekend showed passenger numbers hit seven-month highs as air travelers take advantage of super low-cost airfare despite the reemergence of COVID-19.
TSA published a press release early Monday saying it "screened over 1 million passengers Sunday, representing the highest number of passengers screened at TSA checkpoints since March 17, 2020."
The release continued: "In addition to screening one million passengers in a single day, TSA screened 6.1 million passengers at checkpoints nationwide during the week (Mon., October 12 through Sun., October 18). That weekly volume also represents the highest weekly volume for TSA since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic."
According to TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein, airport security checkpoints nationwide screened 1,031,505 people on Sunday - this is still 60% lower than one year ago.
BREAKING NEWS: @TSA screened 1,031,505 people at security checkpoints nationwide yesterday, Sunday, Oct. 18. It's the first time volume topped 1 million since the pandemic low point of April 14, when 87,534 people were screened. It's still 60% lower throughput than one year ago.— Lisa Farbstein, TSA Spokesperson (@TSA_Northeast) October 19, 2020
TSA numbers this month show a return to normalcy, about eight months since the virus pandemic began. So far, the numbers this month show a rapid increase in travelers:
- Oct. 18 – 1,031,505 people screened
- October 14 – 717,940 people screened
- October 7 – 668,519 people screened
Readers may recall the lowest number of people screened at US airports was 87,534 on April 14, during lockdowns, where much of the airline and travel and tourism industry ground to a halt.
The increase in air travel has occurred as US virus cases topped 70,000 last Friday, the highest level since July. Single-day caseload records were seen in Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, North Dakota, Indiana, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado.
As we've pointed out to our millennial readership, roundtrip airfare has never been cheaper - and with the virus mainly affecting the older segments of the population - now could be the time to travel.
Goldman Sach's Jan Hatzius compiled travel and tourism high-frequency data that suggests US air travel is steadily increasing from the April-May trough. US international passenger arrivals at the top five airports are also rising. Global air travel has rebounded as well.
Another proxy of the travel and tourism rebound is Airbnb searches, which rebounded and recovered back to the February baseline but have since slumped into fall.
Robinhood traders have spent the last seven months panic buying JETS ETF, with hopes the airline industry will recover in a "V-shaped" fashion.
The question traders have on their mind: How long will it take for the airline industry to recover?
With a full recovery not expected anytime soon, the latest air travel increase could come to an abrupt end this fall/winter as virus cases are expected to continue to rise. Nevertheless, there's no proven or commercialized COVID-19 vaccine available - deterring many from flying. Is this as good as it gets?