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Wednesday, June 29, 2022
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United Sees Pent-Up Demand For 2021 Air Travel Pickup Continues

Air travel is slowly rebounding, even as the coronavirus crisis continues its crushing impact on the airline industry and as United Airlines UAL says it sees evidence of pent-up demand.

The Transportation Security Administration’s count of passenger reached 171,563 on Friday, the highest total since Sunday March 29, when the total was 180,002.

The TSA passenger count has been above 110,000 for eleven consecutive days, including Friday, after being below that total for 17 consecutive days April 6 through April 22.

Earlier, Thursday’s count of 154,695 was the highest since Monday March 30, when the total was 154,080.

The TSA count is widely considered a reliable indicator of air travel, but in addition to passengers, it does include airline crew and airport employees who pass through security.

While rising, the count remains far below what is acceptable for the airline industry to function at anywhere near normal. Friday’s count was just 6.7% of the 2.5 million people who traveled on the same date a year earlier.

Pent-up demand for air travel was clear from a comment by United Airlines President and CEO-designate Scott Kirby on the airlines’ earnings call Friday.

“As we look longer term, we see some evidence of pent-up demand,” Kirby said. “For example, searches for 2021 spring break travel on our website are actually higher this year than they were at this time last year.

“But we don’t expect many of those to turn into real bookings or travel until the virus is sufficiently contained and the rhythms of daily life become routine again,” Kirby said.

In a tweet posted Saturday morning, travel Writer Joe Brancatelli said, “TSA says 171K people passed through airport checkpoints yesterday, highest number since March 29, essentially double lowest day (April 14) of pandemic era.

“Notably, daily traffic growth percentages now seems in line with 2019 albeit it from base of 100K instead of 2 million,” Bracantelli said.

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