Travel | April 11, 2020 7:14 am

Air Travel Has Dropped an Astonishing 96% From This Time Last Year

Not exactly surprising. But still pretty wild.

Air Travel Has Dropped an Astonishing 96% From This Time Last Year
JC Gellidon/Unsplash

On April 8th, 2019, the Transportation Security Administration screened 2.3 million travelers at airport checkpoints. On the same day this past week, the TSA screened just 95,000.

That’s the lowest total for any day over the last 10 years, and a stunning new reality as 95% of the population (306 million Americans) are officially under stay-at-home orders.

Across the industry, airports are shutting down gates and airlines are eliminating flights. Southwest plans to cut back 1,500 of its 4,000 daily flights, United is operating at 68% of its schedule and over the next two months, American Airlines expects to operate just 20% of its domestic itineraries. Across every domestic airline, just one out of every 10 seats on planes is currently occupied, according to Airlines for America. Some 1,800 planes are parked on a tarmac collecting dust, rendered surplus to demands.

It all spells economic disaster for the industry. Though airlines can expect portions of a $25 billion loan funded out by the government, they should combine to burn through $60 billion in overhead this quarter alone. The majority of that money will be paid out in refunds, which the U.S. Department of Transportation mandated earlier in the week should be legitimate refunds, not travel credits.

That last point was music to many would be-fliers’ ears, but directly underscores the seismic issue airlines will face in 2020. Because let’s be honest: ain’t nobody hopping on a plane anytime soon, and it remains entirely unclear when that will cease to be the status quo.

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