US Daily Travelers Edge Closer To 1 Million

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The TSA saw nearly one million passengers entering screening checkpoints on October 11th. This was markedly higher than most recent weekends and even beat out the popular Labor Day weekend. This was the highest single-day passenger count the TSA recorded since March 16th.

Passengers getty
Nearly one million passengers flew in a day three different days in the last week. Photo: Getty Images

Close to one million passengers

On October 11th, 984,234 passengers entered TSA screening checkpoints. This beat out Friday, October 9th’s count of 968,545, and Thursday, October 8th’s count of 936,915 passengers.

All in all, this was the best weekend in the United States for airlines in months. After numbers plateaued and held stagnant in the 800,000ish range, this is a welcome rise in numbers for airlines.

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Here’s a look at week-to-week passenger numbers since June:

Week to week numbres
2020 passenger numbers week-to-week since June. Data: TSA | Graph: Simple Flying

While the weekends are still fantastic days, weekday numbers are slightly lower, indicative of weaker business travel, while weekend numbers show strong leisure travel demand.

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What does one million passengers in a day mean?

One million passengers a day is not necessarily a magic number that will push all airlines to profitability. Instead, the number is largely symbolic and would provide evidence of growing travel demand.

Many airlines had expected a rough September and October. While these daily numbers are looking pretty good for 2020, travel is still only about 30-40% of what it was in 2019, as evidenced in week-to-week numbers comparing both years.

2019 vs 2020
2019 vs. 2020 shows that there is a lot of work left to do. Data: TSA | Graph: Simple Flying

Some low-cost carriers, which are capturing an outsized share of leisure travelers currently, may be able to return to profitability early next year. However, most airlines are still looking at ways of cutting cash burn and trying to increase revenue through a variety of means.

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When will the US get to a million passengers in a day?

Based on how numbers have been turning out these last few weeks, it would not be surprising to see the US hit one million passengers in a day this month– especially if close-in leisure demand holds steady (or even improves).

Ultimately, airlines are in a better position in October than they were in, say, June. More people are traveling now, though demand remains relatively low. Nevertheless, airlines have now worked to stabilize their operations, reduce inefficiencies, and implement cost savings. This, unfortunately, included some furloughs and voluntary departures.

All in all, the airline industry remains volatile, and many airlines are still only planning out their schedules a few weeks at a time. That is why you may see some hefty schedules out in December, January, and beyond, but not all of those options will fly. Hundreds of aircraft remained parked, and there will still be plenty of jets parked– though more of them will likely be widebodies that historically operated international long-haul segments.

PSP Airport
Palm Springs International Airport is the gateway to a leisure destination that more travelers have started paying attention to. Photo: Getty Images

In the meantime, carriers are adding new flights wherever possible to leisure destinations. Florida is seeing an expansion of flights with new point-to-point United routes coming as well as new flights to Miami on Southwest Airlines. In addition, out in California, Palm Springs has become a hotspot for new airline service as well, with plenty of new routes starting this winter.

Do you have travel plans in the coming weeks? When do you think the US will hit one million passengers in a day? Let us know in the comments!

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