TSA by the numbers: passenger volume down 90% in coronavirus slump
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
We all know by now that demand for air travel has fallen off a cliff since the beginning of the month.
Partly, this drop can be seen as a way to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as people opt not to travel in an effort to stay healthy. But it’s also a necessary business move by carriers. Some countries have prohibited discretionary travel.
How dramatic has the decline in demand been? Just look at data from the Transportation Security Administration.
TSA screenings may not be a beloved part of U.S. air travel, but they’re a requirement whether you like it or not. Everyone from guests in Etihad’s Residence to the passenger about to occupy seat 26E on the next Spirit Airlines flight has to pass by the administration’s blue-shirted sentries on their way out of any American airport.
Those agents are now less busy than they have been in a decade.
According to Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for the TSA, the administration’s employees screened only 203,858 passengers across the entire country on March 26. That was a drop of nearly 90% compared to the nearly 2,487,162 people screened by the TSA on the same date in 2019.
Farbstein said on Twitter that it represented the agency’s lowest number of single-day screenings since 2010, when the country was emerging from the Great Recession.
In the seven-day period that started March 13, TSA agents saw screenings decrease by more than 100,000 passengers each day. That period included passing the less-than-a-million screenings threshold on March 17, compared to more than 2 million on the same weekday in 2019.
Then the free fall picked up steam. Screenings fell to less than half a million by March 22 and continued to trail off quickly every day since. It took only four days to drop again from 454,516 passengers screened on Sunday to the new record-low number on Thursday, March 26. The TSA’s latest screening data can be found on its website.
Across the travel industry, the sudden evaporation of demand has changed the way companies do business, operating fewer flights and likely changing the long-term landscape of the airline business.
U.S. airlines are waiting on a $50 billion aid package, expected to be signed into law imminently, but even that isn’t going to provide a boost in demand for travel. It’s just meant to keep airlines and their employees afloat for a few months as they try to ride out the slump.
In the meantime, the game of traveler screening limbo will continue. We may actually find out the answer to the question: “how low can you go?”
Featured photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
- Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.