Air travel jumps over July 4 weekend, but down more than 70% from 2019

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Airline passengers wearing face masks arrive and depart the D Concousre at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Tuesday, June 30, 2020.

Bill Clark | CQ-Roll Call | Getty Images

More travelers took to the skies over the July 4 weekend, but airlines are still facing paltry demand compared with last summer because of the pandemic.

An average of 661,811 people a day passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints in the first five days of July, a more than 90% jump from the same period last month and more than five times the number logged during the first five days of April, TSA data released Monday showed.

TSA’s holiday weekend traffic is down more than 72% from the same period of 2019, underscoring airlines’ struggle to attract travelers amid the pandemic this summer, usually the peak travel period.

American Airlines, for example, carried about 211,000 passengers on July 2, its busiest day since March, but the Fort Worth-based airline carried more than 600,000 travelers a day during the holiday weekend last year.

Airlines have taken a number of steps to encourage bookings, such waiving change fees if customers choose to forgo trips this summer as coronavirus cases rise and travel next year instead.

Major U.S. airlines are also requiring travelers to wear masks during their flights and have threatened to ban customers who refuse to comply. There are some exceptions, such as if a passenger has a medical issue or is eating or drinking.

Some airlines including Delta and Southwest have been limiting the number of seats they sell on flights to space travelers out more on their planes. Other airlines, such as American and United aren’t blocking seats but instead say they notify travelers if the plane is filling up.

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