Easter Pushes US Passenger Numbers To Record Highs

Since mid-March, the US has consistently seen over one million passengers in a day pass through a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening checkpoint. With the Easter holiday coming in the first weekend of April, on Thursday, April 1st, and Friday, April 2nd, over 1.5 million passengers went through a screening checkpoint, with April 2nd setting another pandemic-era record.

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Leisure travelers are coming back, and they are coming back strong. Photo: Getty Images

Easter pushes passenger numbers higher

On Thursday, April 1st, 1,562,239 passengers went through a TSA screening checkpoint in the US. This impressive number came just a few thousand passengers shy of breaking the previous pandemic-era record.

That record was eventually broken by April 2nd, which saw 1,580,785 passengers enter a TSA screening checkpoint. This beat out the previous record of 1,574,228 passengers.

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New record daily passenger numbers are showing that there is plenty of pent-up travel demand in the US. Photo: Getty Images

Easter this year is on Sunday, April 4th. Passengers traveling for the Sunday holiday tend to schedule their travels on the Thursday or Friday before Easter. The Good Friday holiday on April 2nd also helped push Thursday passenger numbers upward as leisure travelers took an extra day or a flight after the working day.

Record pandemic-era levels

Since March, multiple pandemic-era travel records have been set. They are as follows:

  • March 12th: 1,409,771 passengers
  • March 18th: 1,413,141 passengers
  • March 19th: 1,477,841 passengers
  • March 21st: 1,543,136 passengers
  • March 28th: 1,574,228 passengers
  • April 2nd: 1,580,785 passengers

Friday, April 2nd, set the sixth pandemic-era record since March for the greatest number of passengers in a day. Passenger numbers have been edging their way upwards recently, and it now appears a new normal to see over one million people fly in a given day.

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Airlines have tinkered with their schedules to respond to adjustments in the demand environment. Photo: Getty Images

Why the last few weeks have been so much better for airlines

The US airline recovery has played out well over the past couple of weeks. Several airlines turned cash-positive in March, and all are triumphantly marching towards the summer, expecting a summer surge in leisure travel.

March is well-known for hosting the spring break holidays, and plenty of families, college students, and other leisure travelers are eager for a getaway as winter gives way to spring. With vaccinations rolling out at an impressive pace, a continued reopening across the country, and lower-than-normal fares, many were tempted into booking a getaway and then taking one.

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Many airlines, ranging from major full-service carriers to low-cost carriers, have lowered their fares to entice travelers. Photo: Getty Images

The airline recovery is expected to track somewhat in line with the progression of the pandemic. Many can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The CDC has already provided guidance for vaccinated passengers to resume travel while still taking precautions. Various countries around the world, such as Iceland, have outlined guidance for welcoming vaccinated tourists with fewer restrictions.

Geographic factors, such as warming weather in much of the US, have also bumped up leisure traveler numbers across the US. Passengers who would previously shy away from non-ski getaways at National Parks in the northern states during the winter are now more willing to take those vacations, for example.

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Airlines are betting big on the summer, with expectations buoyed by recent passenger numbers. Photo: Getty Images

Another factor that helped March passenger numbers is that spring break does not happen at a uniform time across the country, unlike the winter holiday season or Thanksgiving. This means leisure passengers are not all concentrated around one specific week where demand would significantly outpace supply, leading fares to trend upwards and pricing out some passengers.

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All in all, rising passenger numbers are a good sign for the airline industry in the US. With the third airline support package under their belt, carriers expect the summer to be so much better, though even that is not a guarantee at this point. But, if current trends continue, then summer 2020 is expected to remain an anomaly in the history books, with summer 2021 proving to be a turning point in the airline recovery.

Have you flown for Easter? Do you have plans to fly soon? Let us know in the comments!