U.S. Travel Numbers Rise Over 1 Million For the First Time Since March 16

But don't call it a comeback

TSA Processes 1 Million Travelers For First Time Since March 17
Scott Olson / Getty Images

It seems that Sunday brought with it a new travel surprise (don’t worry, it’s finally the good kind). On October 18, American travel hit a promising high note for the first time since pandemic lockdowns began mid-March—TSA reported that more than a million passengers passed through its security screening checkpoints. That’s 1,031,505 travelers to be exact, and it’s the first time since March 16 that travel numbers have been high enough to reach double-comma digits.  

Since we’re here to celebrate any great gains for the travel industry, it’s also worth mentioning that this spike in traveler numbers took place over an unsuspecting weekend—no holiday, no typically strong travel dates, nada—just your average, random weekend that is giving the air travel industry a much-need injection of hope for recovery. 

But don’t call it a comeback—yet. 

Last year’s checkpoint counts for the same date came in at 2,606,266 passengers, so we’re still seeing significantly less traveler movement through airports. (Still, it's a boon compared to the spring season numbers that were only in the tens of thousands versus the usual millions). Plus, while Sunday’s rise in traveler numbers may speak to the fact that people are more comfortable flying than they previously have been, it’s coming at a time when over half of U.S. states are seeing week-over-week rises or even record numbers of positive case numbers and experts are warning of a possible new wave of cases, maybe even the worst yet. 

However, it’s still hopeful to see that the airline industry isn’t fighting a total uphill battle and that the number of people who are open to the idea of air travel is indeed finally starting to take off again.