Is Leisure Travel Coming Back? Memorial Day Numbers Say Yes

Passenger travel was up this past Memorial Day weekend in the United States. Between May 21st and 25th, the TSA screened over 1.5 million passengers with over 300,000 last Thursday, Friday, and Monday.

Memorial Day weekend numbers showed that there is an appetite to travel. Photo: Getty Images

Leisure travel starts coming back

Memorial Day weekend was the first long weekend since states and cities started to lift their stay-at-home orders. This led to a considerable uptick in the number of travelers. For those unfamiliar with US holidays, the final Monday of May is a holiday honoring fallen members of the United States Armed Forces.

For most people, it is a chance to reconnect with families and take a quick vacation. While, for others, it is a day of remembrance for those who served valiantly. Regardless, few travelers flying on these days are off for business events.

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While numbers were still low, they showed that leisure travel might be on the rebound in the United States. Photo: Getty Images

For the airline industry, it was one of the first tests as to whether people would get back on planes or not. There is no playbook for navigating an airline through a pandemic. Within months, airlines started losing massive amounts of money, and several, including Avianca and most recently LATAM, have filed for bankruptcy. However, results showed that there is still an appetite for leisure travel.

The Memorial Day weekend travel numbers

Passenger travel started to tick upwards from Wednesday, May 20th:

  • May 20th: 230,367
  • May 21st: 318,449
  • May 22nd: 348,673
  • May 23rd: 253,190
  • May 24th: 267,451
  • May 25th: 340,769

This was the busiest weekend for the TSA in the last two months. Even just considering the Friday through Sunday numbers, the TSA notched over 860,000 passengers. Last weekend, that number was just below 700,000. Overall, between May 20th and 25th, the TSA screened 1,758,899 passengers. While still much lower than the 6,000,000+ travelers from the year before, this is still a good sign.

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Numbers this year were still far below that of 2019. Photo: Getty Images

How will summer plans be impacted?

After schedules bottomed out in April, airlines have slowly been adding more flights. Most of the growth has been domestic, however. As international destinations start to open up, airlines will begin to resume their long-haul schedules.

In the coming months, US carriers are planning on adding more flights and destinations depending on demand. While June numbers still show capacity cuts in the double digits, there is a slight increase compared to what it was this month. However, passengers should be on the lookout for cancellations, especially if demand does not materialize in the way airlines are currently anticipating.

Is Leisure Travel Coming Back? Memorial Day Numbers Say Yes
Airlines are continuing to adjust their schedules to operate fewer empty flights. Photo: Getty Images

One of the biggest areas that should start to see more flights is New York City. After being ravaged by the virus, the city’s situation is beginning to improve, with patient numbers stabilizing and even starting to decrease. Some places where airlines received exemptions may start to see service again if demand warrants.

Some airlines that received exemptions for service are still showing flights to those destinations. However, keep in mind that airlines may pull those itineraries. Most carriers are still tweaking June schedules with July overhauls expected to come in the next couple of weeks.

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Airlines are still tweaking their schedules, so expect fewer flights on some routes than currently planned. Photo: Getty Images

Airlines and airports are preparing for increased travelers

With more people expected to travel in the next few months, airlines and airports are gearing up ways to reassure passengers that flying is safe. Major US airlines require passengers to wear masks as do some major airports. Social distancing measures are in place with airlines modifying boarding procedures and setting up reminders around terminals.

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Masks are now required on most major airlines. Photo: Getty Images

Onboard, however, is a different story. While some airlines have committed to keeping middle seats empty, most are doing this on a “when possible” basis, preferring masks and hand sanitizer.

Did you travel over Memorial Day? Will you fly this summer? Let us know in the comments!