U.S. airlines had their busiest two days in the last two months this week—still a far cry from what the numbers were a year ago but a slight cause for optimism amidst the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Transportation Security Administration says it screened more than 300,000 fliers on both Thursday and Friday, May 21 and 22, the first time since March 23 that more than 300,000 people traveled through U.S. airports, according to CNN.
Although 318,449 travelers were screened on Thursday and 348,673 on Friday, that’s still far below what air travel was just a year ago, when 2.6 million passengers were screened on both May 21 and May 22 of 2019.
CNN noted that even with the modest gains of recent days, the percentage of people screened since the start of April amounts to only 6 percent of those screened a year ago, meaning the demand for air travel is off 94 percent from last year. Not only have the airlines been crushed financially, but the spread of the virus has had a ripple effect in the travel industry. Rental car company Hertz, which earns almost two-thirds of its revenue from airport rentals, filed for bankruptcy on Friday.
And for the first time in two decades, the venerable AAA did not issue a Memorial Day travel forecast, saying it could not trust the accuracy of the economic data it uses because of the coronavirus crisis.
But, CNN reported, AAA said its own online bookings have been rising since April, albeit modestly, suggesting travelers’ confidence may be improving.
“The saying goes that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Americans are taking that first step toward their next journey from the comfort of their home by researching vacation opportunities and talking with travel agents,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “We are seeing that Americans are showing a preference and inspiration to explore all that our country has to offer as soon as it is safe to travel.”
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