Air travel is up four times since its record-low point in the pandemic, according to the TSA
Despite the coronavirus continuing to reach record case numbers, more people are travelling by plane. On Monday, the Transportation Security Administration reported 430,414 people passed through its airport checkpoints - a nearly 400 percent increase from its record low traffic day during the pandemic of 87,534 in April.
"On the same date in 2019 there were 2,644,981 individuals who were screened at checkpoints nationwide, an 84 percent decrease from the previous year," TSA Public Affairs spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said in a tweet on Tuesday. At this time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travel website encourages people to stay home to protect themselves and others from getting sick, as travel increases one's chances of getting infected and spreading the coronavirus.
One issue with embarking on air travel during the pandemic is the likelihood of not being able to follow social distancing recommendations throughout the journey.
"Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces," the CDC website says. "Social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours. This may increase your risk of exposure to the virus that causes Covid-19."
Nonetheless, travel companies are seeing a significant increase in bookings. A representative from Hopper, a hotel and airfare booking app, told The Washington Post in an email that "weekly flight bookings on Hopper are up +195% since low reached 6 weeks ago, and only down -30% year over year."
The app's hotel bookings are up 86 percent month-over-month.
People are not only feeling more comfortable taking domestic flights but international ones as well. Travel analytics company ForwardKeys reported that as certain European countries - namely Greece, Portugal and Spain - announced their reopening to tourism, there were immediate increases in international flight bookings to those countries.
"When governments tell people they are again allowed to travel, bookings immediately start to come back," Olivier Ponti, vice president of insights at ForwardKeys, said in a statement.
But while bookings are on the rise, they're nowhere near pre-pandemic levels.
"The relatively low booking levels, compared to 2019, suggest that many people are still reluctant to fly," Ponti said in the statement. "With bookings for Greece, Portugal and Spain respectively 49.8%, 52% and 53.5% behind where they were at the beginning of June 2019, it will be challenging for any of those countries to rescue their summer holiday season."
If a traveller is set on boarding a plane, the TSA is encouraging taking extra caution when flying during the global health crisis.
"Travellers are encouraged to wash their hands directly before and after completing the security screening process and that you place personal items such as wallets, keys or phone in your carry-on property that will be screened through the X-ray system," the agency's website says. "You may wear a facemask during the screening process, but a TSA officer may ask the traveller to adjust the face-covering at any point during the screening process."The Washington Post