The number of people traveling by plane has hit a 10-year low as the aviation industry reels from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Transportation Security Administration says.
Meanwhile, airport security checkpoints screened fewer than 125,000 people on Thursday, less than 5% of the 2.4 million people, including both passengers and crewmembers, who passed through TSA checkpoints on the equivalent day last year.
Air travel is normally busy during this spring break period, but the pandemic has choked off demand. Airlines have reduced their capacity by about 56%, according to Airlines for America, an industry association.
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It said passenger counts are down about 92% – and “passenger traffic is falling much faster than they [airlines] can cut capacity.”
Airlines will keep scheduling flights to move cargo and satisfy government requirements linked to the stimulus law.
Low-cost carriers, several of which cater to leisure travelers and align their schedules to fit with vacation travel patterns, are experiencing 10% of usual traffic, according to the National Air Carrier Association, which represents them.
In March, TSA screened just under half of the passengers it did in March 2019 – with the numbers slightly above last year’s level toward the beginning of the month, during a flurry of travel as people returned home, and dropped to percentages in the single digits in the final days of March.
As a result of the drop off in demand, about 20% of the US commercial aviation fleet – or more than 1,200 planes – are sitting idle, meaning they have not been used in the last seven days, according to data from Airlines for America. Some airlines have decided to retire older aircraft ahead of schedule.