On the rebound? American Airlines’ flights were 56% full over Memorial Day

May 27, 2020

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American Airlines saw a banner Memorial Day weekend — at least by 2020 standards — as more travelers seemed ready to shrug off concerns about flying during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier’s flights were 56% full over what is the symbolic start of summer in the U.S., American CEO Doug Parker said at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions conference on Wednesday.

We are still flying only 20% of our schedule, but on that much reduced schedule we are definitely seeing more demand than we were seeing in prior months,” he said.

Get Coronavirus travel updates. Stay on top of industry impacts, flight cancellations, and more.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) saw an uptick in people screened over the holiday long weekend. The agency screened 348,673 people on Friday, May 22, at the outset of the weekend. That marked the highest total since March, when people began staying home in large numbers because of COVID-19. Still, even the May 22 total represented less than 15% of the number screened a year ago.

Still, the uptick in travel is good for airlines as they look to cut losses. At the same time, however, it raises questions over traveler safety as concerns of COVID-19 remain high.

Some travelers tweeted images of busy airports and long queues, including at American’s Charlotte (CLT) hub.

Related: American, Delta and United plan to fly these long-haul international routes in June

American is slowly adding back flights in response to the improving demand. In June, the airline will operate about a third of the schedule it flew a year ago, according to Cirium data.

The carrier will resume a number of routes in June, including select flights to Europe from both its Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) hubs. At the same time, it will suspend service to four smaller cities: Aspen (ASE), Montrose (MTJ), Vail (EGE) and Worcester (ORH).

Related: A complete list of major carriers’ coronavirus change and cancellation policies

American has extended its waiver allowing travelers to change bookings without a fee through June 30. Tickets must be for travel by Sept. 30.

“These are early returns but they are encouraging,” Parker said of the Memorial Day weekend performance. “We certainly believe the worst is behind us and we’re on the uptick.”

Related: Major US airlines see uptick in summer bookings

Featured image by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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