The coronavirus pandemic has the global travel industry reeling. Airlines have been hit hard by the sudden and rapid drop of passenger numbers. I’ve kept an eye on the daily TSA checkpoint numbers, which have continued to steadily decrease through all of March and into April. We dipped below a 90% year over year drop by the first of the month, but this wasn’t the end.

As of a couple days ago, we’ve officially dropped below the six-figure mark, hitting a level of air travel not seen in the U.S. since 1954!

Air Travel Down A Mind-Boggling 96%!

If you’d told me last year that there would be fewer than 100,000 passengers boarding planes in the U.S. on a daily basis at any point in 2020, I would have thought you were insane. But that is where we are at. On Wednesday, only 94,931 passengers cleared TSA checkpoints!

The rate of slowdown has certainly stabilized. Thursday actually saw an increase in the number of passengers, which is only the fourth slight day-over-day uptick since March 8. Three out of four of the days with a slight increase were Sundays, a busy day for both business and leisure travel. Over the rest of the days there was a steady decline in the number of passengers passing through security.

Final Thoughts

Air travel isn’t going to rebound overnight. The slump was extremely rapid, with airlines scrambling to adjust to an unprecedented drop in demand. Travel didn’t drop off this quickly even after 9/11. The rebound, however, will not be the same. It’s going to be a slow crawl back to the travel we saw over the past few years.

The AP cites a poll which found that “fewer than half the Americans it surveyed about 10 days ago say they will get on a plane within six months of the spread of the virus flattening.” The estimate of when we’ll see air travel back to pre-COVID-19 rates? The middle of next year.

H/T: David Koenig, AP News