Hundreds of Thousands Still Flying as Air Travel Slows

Despite facing new challenges including flight cancellations due to government restrictions and pressure to stay home to slow the spread amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, hundreds of thousands of Americans continue to board flights throughout the U.S.

However, the dropoff has been dramatic compared to previous years and passenger numbers continue to decline rapidly with each passing day.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported 239,234 travelers nationwide on Wednesday, March 25, 40,000 fewer than Tuesday, March 24. For perspective, TSA reported 2,273,811 total travelers on March 25 of last year.

As airlines scramble to reduce capacity, park planes, cut staff and adjust their schedules, TSA figures show that demand continues to trend downward. The number of airborne travelers has decreased every day since March 15, when 1,519,442 Americans boarded planes. The steady decline has been dramatic also, with totals dropping by hundreds of thousands and now tens of thousands each day.

From March 13—the day President Trump declared a national emergency over COVID-19—to March 23, the number of air travelers is down 63 percent compared to the same period in 2019. TSA reported more than 2 million travelers every day between March 4-25, 2019 but only three times during the same period this year, the last time coming on March 8.

With fewer and fewer passengers boarding flights, airlines have been making changes to their policies and services, eliminating middle seats and reducing food and beverage service to increase the distance between people and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Airlines did receive good news this week in the form of a $50 billion bailout as part of a $2 trillion stimulus package agreed to by the U.S. Senate to aid the domestic economy.

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