As the holiday travel season quickly approaches, U.S. airports have been getting quite busy lately, with daily passenger throughput exceeding 90 percent of 2019, i.e. pre-pandemic traffic in each of the past four months. Measured against 2019 traffic, October 2022 has been the best month since the pandemic started, with average daily passenger throughput reaching 95 percent of October 2019 levels.
Following an abysmal 2020, where passengers remained hesitant to return to the skies, flight traffic picked up noticeably in the second quarter of 2021, as the vaccine rollout proceeded rapidly. According to data from the Transport Security Administration, passenger throughput at U.S. airports started climbing steadily, with TSA safety checks exceeding two million in a single day for the first time since the pandemic hit on June 11. Throughout the busy summer season, the daily average hovered around the two million mark, trailing 2019 passenger numbers by roughly 500,000 a day on average. By the end of the year, the gap had narrowed to 350,000-400,000 before gradually climbing closer to pre-pandemic levels throughout 2022.
Prior to the pandemic, daily passenger volumes of 2+ million were the norm rather than the exception. At the onset of the pandemic, daily passenger throughput fell as low as 100,000 in April 2020, before slowly climbing back to its current level. Throughout 2021, the TSA performed an average of 1.59 million safety checks per day, compared to 880,000 in 2020 and 2.31 million in 2019. As of December 5, this year's average daily passenger troughput stands at 2.07 million.