Recovery of Collapsed Air Passenger Traffic in the US Backtracks

Recovery of Collapsed Air Passenger Traffic in the US Backtracks

Confirming early warnings by United and Delta of re-declining ticket sales. V-Recovery has to wait in line. Airline shares down 3.7% intraday.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

TSA checkpoint screenings, which track how many people enter into the security zones at US airports on a daily basis, were down -72.6% yesterday (Sunday) compared to Sunday in the same week last year, according to TSA data released this morning. This was a notch worse than Sunday last week (-71.7%). And this reversal has been playing out since early July.

The seven-day moving average, which irons out the day-to-day volatility particularly around the Independence Day weekend, has edged down to -74.5%, right back where it was on July 2. The peak, so to speak – the smallest decline from the same period last year – was on July 8:

The miserably slow recovery for airlines in terms of ticket sales, from near-zero in late March and early April to some level above near-zero started backtracking in late June. United Airlines and Delta Airlines both issued early warnings about this industry-wide phenomenon that was not supposed to happen in this recovery, but is now happening.

Ticket sales today result in passenger traffic some days, weeks, or months later when these customers are actually walking into an airport to get on the plane. And those declining ticket sales that United had warned about with charts, using industry-wide data for all airlines and sales channels, is now translating gradually into declining passenger traffic into the security zones of US airports.

Sure, this is summer travel season, when traffic is always up seasonally compared to lower-traffic seasons. This year too, there has been a seasonal uptick. But these are year-over-year comparisons that eliminate the seasonality of air travel.

Both United and Delta cited the renewed outbreaks of Covid-19 as the primary cause for this reversal in the recovery – people not wanting to be in an airport with all the exposure this produces and not wanting to sit on a plane near people who might potentially be contagious. This is in addition to travel restrictions globally.

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Wolf Richter

In his cynical, tongue-in-cheek manner, he muses on WOLF STREET about economic, business, and financial issues, Wall Street shenanigans, complex entanglements, and other things, debacles, and opportunities that catch his eye in the US, Europe, Japan, and occasionally China. WOLF STREET is the successor to his first platform… TP-Title-7-small-200px …whose ghastly name he finally abandoned in July 2014. Here’s the story on that. Wolf lives in San Francisco. He has over twenty years of C-level operations experience, including turnarounds and a VC-funded startup. He earned his BA and MBA in Texas and his MA in Oklahoma, worked in both states for years, including a decade as General Manager and COO of a large Ford dealership and its subsidiaries. But one day, he quit and went to France for seven weeks to open himself up to new possibilities, which degenerated into a life-altering three-year journey across 100 countries on all continents, much of it overland. And it almost swallowed him up.