Air travel is gaining altitude again, approaching pre-pandemic levels, despite potential turbulence signaled by experts for the upcoming summer season.
Data from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints indicate a surge this year, mirroring levels observed pre-COVID-19 in 2019. The volume of passengers processed at TSA checkpoints in the first quarter of 2023 surpassed the same period in 2019 by 0.1 percent.
Despite not having daily checkpoint data available since 2019, the annual passenger numbers provide a clear picture. The figures from 21.5 million passengers in 2019 plummeted to 6.4 million in 2020 due to the pandemic. However, by 2022, passenger numbers soared back to 18.8 million, according to TSA New England spokesperson Daniel Velez. The first four months of 2023 have continued this upward trend with approximately 6.2 million passengers, compared to around 5 million during the same period in 2022. Boston’s Logan International Airport mirrors this upward trend.
“This increase in passenger volumes is a clear indication of people’s renewed confidence in air travel as the pandemic concludes,” Velez said. “Passenger numbers will continue to rise, and we anticipate a busy summer ahead.”
Massport spokesperson Jennifer B. Mehigan echoed this sentiment, noting that while passenger numbers are expected to rise this year, they may still need to reach peak levels in 2019.
As airports get busier, Mehigan advises passengers to allow sufficient time for security checks and boarding – two hours for domestic and three hours for international flights.
The summer season could pose additional challenges for travelers due to the Sumner Tunnel closure from July 5 to August 31. Passengers are urged to plan their travel to the airport and allocate ample time for their journey.
Nationally, TSA Administrator David Pekoske has projected passenger volumes to exceed pre-pandemic levels, with strong demand expected throughout the summer.
However, the influx of travelers and other issues may lead to disruptions. Logan Airport experienced several problems last summer, including air traffic control issues, weather disruptions, and pilot shortages, leading to numerous cancellations. It ranked 11th for the most delays in 2022, with 21 percent of all domestic flights departing behind schedule. Aviation analyst Robert Mann predicts continued delays, cancellations, and customer dissatisfaction this summer, adding stress to the recovering air travel system.
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