Are We There Yet? Air Travel Soars Back

Off the Charts: The Visual Says It All

Family flying on an airplane.
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Marko Geber /Getty Images

We have liftoff. Passengers took flight in droves on Thursday, pushing the number of people passing through airport screenings above 2019 pre-pandemic levels for the first time this year.

More people boarded commercial planes in the U.S. on Thursday than they did on the comparable day in 2019, according to numbers from the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA said 2,147,090 people were screened at airports across the country, almost 3% above the 2,088,760 passengers who went through TSA checkpoints on July 1, 2019.

Air travel dropped sharply last year when the pandemic struck and countries around the world limited travel to slow the spread of COVID-19. But with vaccine rollouts and people growing more comfortable moving about again, air travel has been on the rise. This was the first time, though, that it surpassed its pre-pandemic level on any given day this year, as the chart shows:

Some of the boost may be due to the Fourth of July landing on a Sunday this year, making it an automatic three-day weekend for many. But the higher figure may bode well for the airline industry, as airports and airlines continue to bulk up in anticipation of more passengers, including more business travelers this fall. To attract more workers, TSA has been offering $1,000 bonuses to those who get on board by the end of September, and United announced earlier this week it has ordered 270 new jets and plans to hire 25,000 workers by 2026. In late June, Delta said it would speed up hiring to meet customer demand.

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