TSA Passenger Numbers Show U.S. Travel Recovery
Now a full year removed from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., the start of a recovery in the travel industry looks to be underway based on improvements and leading indicators in several key metrics. With the vaccine rolling out across the country at increasing speed, new COVID cases on the decline, and record levels of consumer savings, all mixed with a frustrated population who can’t wait to travel once again, it feels like we are seeing a shift in recent patterns.
Last week, TSA Passenger numbers not only hit their highest level in a year, but also exceeded 1.2m travelers each day for the past five days at the time of writing, with no sign of that changing soon. With much of the country on spring break, travel has been boosted significantly – despite some schools and colleges canceling their breaks and a reduction in available tourist attractions. The message from passengers seems clear that they are ready and willing to travel again.
In addition to this increase in current travel plans, there are also improvements across leading indicators for future travel as COVID restrictions are eased and a growing percentage of the population receive their vaccines, people are turning to booking their summer vacations. Credit card data for February is already showing an uptick in airline bookings, especially among older Americans most likely to be fully vaccinated.
Google Trends data, which shows up to date interest in searched terms across the Google platform, is also showing increases in terms related to travel and plane tickets.
All these factors are leading to increased optimism from the airlines, who are increasing their orders for new planes, as well as hiring new pilots once again to prepare for this incoming demand. With this incoming return to prior demand levels, mixed with the required backfill for the pilots who left airlines during the pandemic as early retirements, there are signals that we may return to the prior pilot shortage sooner than later.
While leisure travel looks to be the first to recover, other key elements of the industry will likely take longer, notably business travel and international travel. However, all signs would point to these too returning to pre-pandemic levels in the foreseeable future. For international travel, this may take a greater vaccine rollout nationwide and removal of required quarantines in arriving countries. For business travel, companies are likely to take a more conservative approach with their employees, but while online conferencing tools like Zoom have been able to fill the gap, they cannot fully replace the business relationships that can only be made possible through travel and face to face meetings.
At AeroGuard we are very pleased to see these recent changes and optimistic for the future they signal.