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Strong TSA Passenger Screening Counts Herald Rebound in Travel

By Kelly Hoggan

2021 is shaping up to come close to late-2019 in terms of the number of air travelers screened by TSA.


Summer is typically the busiest of the several air travelseasons, though the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic severely depressed such travel.However, air travel in 2021 has shown a slow but steady return to 2019 travel levels, including this current summer travel season, which unofficially began with the Memorial Day holiday weekend.  

TSA Screening Numbers 

The rebound in air travel is illustrated by the number ofpassengers seen at U.S. Transportation Security Administration airport securityscreening checkpoints. For the first time in 2021, more than 2 million air travelers made their way through TSA screening checkpoints this past weekend, including Friday the 11th of June and Sunday the 13th of June, whennearly 2.1 million passengers were screened, which was about 74% of the number screened on the same day in 2019, and a heretofore unattainable percentage in 2021.  

Good news seems to be popping up everywhere. Since March 11thof this year, the federal security agency has also screened at least 1 millionto 1.5 million people daily and since mid-May, the number of passengers screened per day has easily exceeded that 1.5 million mark on many days. In other words, with the waning of the coronavirus, at least in the United States, a return to more traditional summertime TSA screening numbers may be in the offing.   

 Travel Demand Rising 

From the above chart, one can see that 2021 continues tomark a rebound in air traveler numbers, and that if trends continue, suchtravel may return to pre-2020 levels before too long. Commensurate with the decline in coronavirus cases in the US, a surge in travel demand this past spring seems to have laid the foundation for high air traveler numbers this summer. In addition, the increase in air traveler numbers is buoying airline, hotel, and car rental agency hopes for a return to pre-2020 revenues.  

Revenue Increases 

There’s no doubt 2020 was a year in which airlines and othertravel industry sectors saw huge declines in revenues owing to the steep dropin air traveler numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns and quarantines that resulted from it. Airlines were forced to park thousands of planes because there simply weren’t enough passengers to fly in them. Many hotels either shut down temporarily or they instituted draconian anti-coronavirus protection protocols for what guests they did manage to attract. However, this year the surge in air travel is increasing prices in airfares, hotel rooms, and rental cars, which is a good sign for the travel industry in general.  

Airlines Tout Recovery 

US airlines are particularly hopeful for a return to moretraditional summer travel numbers. United Airlines, for example, says theincrease in air travel will allow it to avoid furloughing many of its flight attendants and other employees this fall. Down in Florida, many airlines are battling for market share once again, with the city-to-city carrier Spirit Airlines planning to make a big entrance into the competitive Miami air travel market. More proof of a rebound in travel is offered by American Express, whose CEO has recently remarked that US air travel and spending on dining appears to be nearing full recovery, all of which is great news for the many thousands of people employed by the travel and dining industries.  

Kelly Hoggan, Founder and CEO of H4 Solutions, previously served as assistant administrator for operations at the Transportation Security Administration. In that role, he was responsible for aircraft and checkpoint security operations at the nation's 450-plus commercial airports.

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