Air Travel Soars Back to Pre-Pandemic Heights Amid Summer Rush Warnings

Date:

Key Takeaways

  • Air travel is rebounding, nearing pre-pandemic levels, as indicated by data from TSA checkpoints in the first quarter of 2023.
  • Annual passenger numbers dropped from 21.5 million in 2019 to 6.4 million in 2020 but surged back to 18.8 million in 2022, reflecting renewed confidence in air travel.
  • The first four months of 2023 saw approximately 6.2 million passengers, compared to around 5 million during the same period in 2022.
  • TSA and airport officials anticipate a busy summer, with passenger volumes expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels nationally.

Air Travel Rebound: Data Insights

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.

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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.

Navigating Potential Summer Challenges: Advice and Projections

“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.

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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.
This update serves purely as an informational alert. If you have questions, mail can be sent to Letters to the Editor, The Boston Globe, P.O. Box 2378, Boston, MA 02107-2378. The email address is magazine@globe.com.

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What We Think

The resurgence of air travel signals a positive turn amid the pandemic’s challenges. Despite potential disruptions, the substantial increase in passenger numbers reflects renewed confidence.

As the summer season approaches, travelers are advised to plan for potential delays and disruptions, anticipating a busy period for airports. While air travel regains momentum, proactive planning and flexibility will be key for a smoother travel experience in the coming months.

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