U.S. Airport Passenger Numbers Dip to Lowest Level Since July

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) -
People walk at Reagan National Airport ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in Arlington, U.S., Nov. 25, 2020. (Reuters/Hannah McKay)

The number of passengers screened at U.S. airports dipped to 501,513 on Tuesday, the lowest number since July 4 as COVID-19 cases spike, and Delta Air Lines’ chief executive warned that the outlook remained bleak in the months ahead.

Speaking on CNBC, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said travel during the upcoming holiday season will be similar to numbers in recent weeks, when traffic has hovered around one-third of normal levels.

“I don’t see that changing for the next couple of months,” he said.

However, he said there is “enormous pent-up demand” for spring travel, when there is a possibility that tens of millions of Americans will have been vaccinated and “ready to get on with their lives.”

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which releases daily passenger screenings at U.S. airports, said traffic on Tuesday was down about 74% over the same weekday last year when it screened 1.9 million people.

Several airlines in recent days have reported a softening in passenger demand as U.S. health officials advise against holiday travel. On Monday, TSA screened 703,546 people.

The news comes as coronavirus rapidly spread throughout the United States, with more than 15 million cases in the country, and one million new cases logged in a mere five days.

More than 30 million Californians are in lockdown as the state grapples with a rapid outbreak.

Several states, including Pennsylvania, are running out of ICU beds.