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TSA screenings spiked over July 4 weekend, but it's still a long road to recovery

July 06, 2020
3 min read
TSA screenings spiked over July 4 weekend, but it's still a long road to recovery
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July 4 weekend saw a new travel record for 2020 in the U.S. Over the course of the holiday weekend, Transportation Security Administration screenings rose above 700,000 for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak took root in the states.

But even the new high numbers are a harsh reminder of how little people are traveling this summer compared to the pre-pandemic normal.

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According to the TSA, 764,761 people passed through its airport checkpoints on July 2 this year, compared with almost 2.1 million on the same weekday in 2019. On July 5 2020, 732,123 people were screened, compared to almost 2.8 million on the same day last year.

But even these new highs are more muted than they could have been.

Related: Global Entry enrollment delayed again, until August 10.

Last month, Henry Harteveldt, president of travel industry analysis firm Atmosphere Research, told TPG that screening numbers might top 1 million over Independence Day weekend.

He predicted more communities around the country could be relaxing restrictions on social distancing and allowing tourism-friendly spots like restaurants and entertainment venues to reopen in time for the holiday.

Instead, we're seeing the opposite.

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Related: American will reduce staffing on flights to cut costs.

Screenings staying below 1 million this weekend can be explained by a variety of factors, Harteveldt said by email.

"Ongoing concerns about air travel combined with the virus resurgence in several states and travel restrictions remaining in place limiting international travel," he wrote.

Read more: United Airlines undeterred in August expansion by rising US coronavirus infections, E.U. ban.

So while the air travel recovery is generally trending upwards, the industry may have a long time to wait before a million people pass through the nation's airports on a single day again.

Helane Becker, an aviation analyst at Cowen, wrote in a report at the end of June that the million traveler milestone might not happen until Christmas.

Related: Hawaiian Airlines returns to Las Vegas, New York and 6 more U.S. cities in August.

"We would like to see a further step up in demand trends to get comfortable with a potential recovery to 1 MM passengers / day by the December holidays, but so far the recovery has been better than we suspected it would be," the report said. However, it cautioned, "news headlines remain negative with the U.S. setting new case records almost daily, led by Florida, Texas, Arizona and California. Economies in those states have been slowing their reopening timeline while also enacting further restrictions."

New restrictions and increasing case numbers could further slow or even temporarily reverse the recovery.

Featured image by Getty Images

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Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
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  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees