As coronavirus lockdown measures across the country begin to lift, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that this past Sunday marked the second-highest number of air travelers since April 3. The numbers will likely offer some hope to the airline industry, which has suffered enormous losses due to the pandemic.
According to People, a total of 128,875 travelers were screened in airports throughout the country on Sunday. Stronger numbers were also reported on Thursday and Friday, with a respective 111,627 and 123,464 passengers, suggesting the increase will be a trend.
The total is still a fraction of the number of travelers pre-pandemic, when the TSA estimated it would scan over 2 million people each day. For example, March 1 saw the TSA screen a total of 2.3 million passengers.
However, within weeks, stay-at-home mandates began to have a dire effect on travel, with The Inquisitr reporting the industry saw a 96 percent decrease in total passengers. At one of its lowest points, it dealt with 95,000 travelers each day nationwide — a total that is less than one-third of what the nation’s busiest airport alone would generally see in pre-coronavirus times.
Even with this slight increase in numbers, airline leaders are still warning their employees that tough times are ahead. A joint letter issued by United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby predicted they “expect to fly fewer people during the entire month of May than we did on a single day in May 2019.”
In a statement released by Delta in mid-March, CEO Ed Bastian outlined the steps being taken by the airline in light of the reduced demand.
“We are taking difficult but determined actions to protect the financial position of the company. These include: an overall capacity reduction in the next few months of 40 percent – the largest capacity reduction in Delta’s history,” the notice read.
Other measures included “nearly eliminating flying to continental Europe,” in addition to “deferring new aircraft deliveries to manage our reduced capacity and preserve cash” and “reducing capital expenditures by at least $2 billion for the year, including delaying aircraft mods, IT initiatives and other opportunities to preserve cash.”
As a result of the steep decline in air travel, the government agreed to give the crippled industry a $25 billion bailout, per The New York Times.
The package did come with some strings attached — larger airlines would have to pay back some of the money once the industry returned to normal. However, experts warned this might be difficult, as global passenger revenue is expected to decrease by 55 percent this year, with an estimated loss of $314 billion.
Nevertheless, Bastian remained optimistic in his predictions for the future.
“I am confident that we will emerge from this crisis,” he claimed.