Traffic rebound on U.S. airlines slows despite Labor Day bump

Delta Air Lines customers wear masks as they wait to be served at the ticker counter in the domestic terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Friday, September 4, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Delta Air Lines customers wear masks as they wait to be served at the ticker counter in the domestic terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Friday, September 4, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

July was down 73% from year earlier; rest of summer not much better

Americans are still mostly avoiding airplanes amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite a busy Labor Day, according to the latest traffic reports.

Passenger traffic on U.S. airlines was down 73% in July from a year earlier, the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics said Tuesday.

That’s improved from the year-over-year declines seen in April, May and June, when airline passenger traffic was down 96%, 90% and 80% respectively.

But the recovery appeared to stall in August and early September, when year-over-year declines in passenger counts were still in the 70% range on some days, according to Transportation Security Administration data on people passing through airport security checkpoints.

The Labor Day holiday weekend brought some significant increases in traffic through airports, with more than 900,000 passengers on both Monday and last Friday. That’s the first time passenger counts have exceeded 900,000 since March 17, but still down from more than 2 million passengers on the same days a year ago.

The 18 largest U.S. airlines carried a total of 21.4 million passengers in July, according to preliminary federal data for the month. That’s up significantly from April’s 3 million passengers, which was a record low based on federal records dating back to 1974.

Domestic passenger traffic was down 70% in July, while international passenger traffic on U.S. airlines was down 90%.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines scaled back its plans for flight additions in August, but continues to make plans for resuming more international flights this fall and next year. It said its schedule is subject to change “due to the evolving nature of COVID-19, customer demand, government travel regulations and federal health guidelines.”

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