Fourth Of July TSA Numbers Prove Leisure Travel Is Back In The US

The Fourth of July holiday weekend proved to be incredibly successful for airlines. After seeing a depressed holiday last year and with nearly 70% of adults in the United States having received at least one dose of the vaccine, Americans took to the skies in heavy numbers. In short, any naysayers who believed leisure travel is not back yet have been proven wrong this past holiday weekend.

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Americans are coming back to the skies. Photo: Getty Images

TSA screenings for the Fourth of July

July 4th, 2021, marked the 245th anniversary of the United States’ independence. With July 5th observed as a holiday, Americans took advantage of the holiday weekend to travel. The surge in travel stated from Wednesday, June 30th, according to TSA numbers:

  • June 30th: 1,920,663 passengers
  • July 1st: 2,147,090 passengers
  • July 2nd: 2,196,411 passengers
  • July 3rd: 1,915,017 passengers
  • July 4th: 1,681,896 passengers
  • July 5th: 2,160,147 passengers

July 6th numbers, which were not available at the time of writing, are expected to be relatively high, though it may not hit the two million mark. A total of 12,021,224 passengers, and counting, have flown around the July 4th holiday period.

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Long lines of paying passengers are back. Photo: Getty Images

Screenings topped 2019-levels…but there is a catch

For the first time since the start of the crisis, TSA screening numbers topped 2019 levels. Specifically, TSA screening numbers topped 2019 levels on July 1st and July 2nd.

On July 1st, 2021, 2,147,090 passengers took to the skies. On the same weekday in 2019, 2,088,760 passengers passed through checkpoints. On July 2nd, 2,196,411 passengers took to the skies, beating out the 2,184,253 passengers that flew on this day in 2019.

Looking at this data, it may seem that the US has overcome the crisis and is now back to normal. However, this would not be the case. The TSA’s data compares the same weekday. So Thursday, July 1st, compares to the same Thursday from the same week in 2019.

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The July 4th holiday was still a good one for airlines. Photo: Getty Images

July 1st, 2021’s weekday comparison in 2019 is actually July 4th, 2019 – when a comparatively lower number of travelers flew on that day. The same is true for July 2nd, 2021, which compares to July 5th, 2019.

In fact, looking at the lead-up to the 2019 holiday period, it is clear that the US has a lot of room to go. For example, on Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019, over 2.5 million passengers took to the skies, and on July 2nd, 2019, that number was over 2.3 million.

On July 4th, 2020, 1,681,896 passengers stepped onboard an aircraft. This compares to the 2,088,760 that flew on July 4th, 2021.

Overall, 2021 passenger numbers are still lower than 2019-levels, though make no mistake, leisure travel is back.

The leisure environment continues to improve

July is usually the best month for airlines from a traffic perspective. While school start and stop dates are fluid, nearly every school and university in the US is out of regular session in July.

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Most passengers flying today are still flying for leisure purposes. Photo: Getty Images

July was always the month to watch. With the TSA regularly starting to screen over two million passengers in a day, airlines continue to approach 2019-levels of traffic. July 5th was the 12th overall day in 2021 that over two million passengers went through a security checkpoint.

As it stands, the US is roughly at about 70-75% of 2019 levels of passengers. The bulk of these customers are leisure. While business travel is starting to come back, most airlines do not expect corporate passengers to make a full return to business travel until the fall.

Nevertheless, July also holds a lot of promise because more international destinations are open. Italy, Greece, Spain, Croatia, France, Germany, Portugal, Iceland, and more are opened, or else will be opening up, for US citizens to travel to, among others. Vaccination documentation will get you out of testing and quarantine requirements at most destinations for Americans.

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Domestic flights have been seeing loads trend upwards for months, while the international revival has started only in the last few weeks. Photo: Getty Images

There is still a gap of roughly 30% of travelers who have not returned. While the bulk of those are leisure travelers, some are barred from travel to destinations in Asia and Oceania.

Ultimately, the world is reopening, and leisure travel is coming back. With the domestic market starting to show signs of strain with national parks, outdoor lodges, and ski destinations starting to fill up, the rest of the world is starting to open, leaving open a world of possibilities for travelers and new opportunities for airlines.

Did you travel over the holiday period? Are you planning any travel in 2021? Let us know in the comments!

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