Americans set a record for pandemic-era air travel, then broke it again over the Mother’s Day holiday weekend. The Transportation Security Administration said that slightly more than 1.7 million people were screened at airport checkpoints on Sunday, the highest number since March 2020, when travel was collapsing because of the coronavirus outbreak. Sunday’s mark was about 4,500 more than the previous record, set just two days earlier.
However, those crowds were still far smaller than before the pandemic. Sunday’s TSA count was down 29% from the comparable Sunday two years ago, according to TSA. Air travel has been rising slowly for more than a year since hitting bottom in mid-April 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the aviation industry due to travel restrictions and a slump in demand among travelers.
Significant reductions in passenger numbers have resulted in flights being canceled or planes flying empty between airports, which in turn massively reduced revenues for airlines and forced many airlines to lay off employees or declare bankruptcy. Some have attempted to avoid refunding canceled trips to diminish their losses. Airliner manufacturers and airport operators have also laid-off employees.
United States air charter travel strongly increased in February and March as airlines slashed schedules, making commercial flights increasingly unpredictable; however, some charter operators such as JetSuite subsequently saw a drastic drop in business as widespread stay-at-home orders took effect in April 2020.
The use of airplanes by travelers has been implicated in the spread of the coronavirus. The World Health Organization noted that “Transmission of infection may occur between passengers who are seated in the same area of an aircraft, usually as a result of the infected individual coughing or sneezing or by touch”. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, many airline tickets have been sold at discount and some buyers attended spring break celebrations despite warnings to remain at home. A multitude of young adults have tested positive for the coronavirus upon returning from spring break celebrations; among those from Texas vacationing in Cabo San Lucas were forty-four, positive persons.
CDC recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated because travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, follow CDC’s recommendations for unvaccinated people.
CDC will update these recommendations as more people are vaccinated, as rates of COVID-19 change, and as additional scientific evidence becomes available.