Surging coronavirus infection rates aren’t slowing U.S. air travel rebound, yet

The U.S. airline industry is still deep underwater.

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Release Date
June 24, 2020
Surging coronavirus infection rates aren’t slowing U.S. air travel rebound, yet
  • This fourth installment of TAC’s recovery model, incorporating the latest data available from Transportation Security Administration and airlines.
  • Our prior TAC Analysis recovery forecasts have proven to be within 1% of May and June numbers as reported by the TSA.
  • The on-going recovery is increasingly dependent on the existence and shape of a second wave, with passenger behavior suggesting a willingness to return to flying in spite of increasing infection rates.
  • Capacity continues to be focused on domestic destinations as further restrictions hinder the ability for international traffic to recover.

For the first time in over three months, the Transportation Security Administration screened over 600,000 passengers. These figures, tallied for Monday, June 22,  have not been seen since March 19, which had then continued to freefall to a low of just 87,534 on April 14. The recent rebound represents almost 700% increase from the low recorded in mid-April.

Yet, as optimistic as the almost seven-fold increase in traffic from its lows may be, it still requires context that overall numbers remain down more than 77% from the same point in 2019 and now facing a surge in new U.S. COVID-19 cases.

Related: The airlines are staring down a slow and uneven recovery from coronavirus

This is a sobering reality that the industry remains deep within unprecedented territory. Traffic still needs to recover another 3-and-a-half times its recent record highs just to match the worst month ever recorded following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

As daunting as this challenge may be, the industry marches on with the knowledge that traffic will recover. As treatments and (eventually) vaccines become available, consensus around the world is that people will once again travel at all-time record levels. The question remains, when?

Related: Time and money, not gimmicks, are going to get people flying again

Throughout the crisis, TAC Analysis has been developing and updating a model to forecast the coming recovery. The model was most recently updated on April 15, the day following what we now know to be the trough of the decline. Originally published on March 16 (and first updated on March 31) the overall forecast has, so far, matched within one and two percentage points of what has actually transpired.

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