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Airline Tickets Soar in U.S. over Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the summer season, and travelers across the country are taking to the skies post-COVID to visit relatives or escape to America’s vacation destinations.  All signs are pointing toward a U.S. recovery in air travel, and passengers are taking to the skies in numbers not seen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When schools start to close for the summer and adults plan their vacations to maximize time off, leisure travel begins its surge.  Memorial Day, which falls on the last Monday in May each year, sets the trend or outlook for summer travel.  This past Memorial Day was no exception.  On two days of the long weekend, the number of passengers throughout airports in the U.S. exceeded 1.9 million, and one day topped 1.85 million.  All signs indicate an excellent summer in the skies. 

Memorial Day is strong on leisure travel, but the holiday did not quite make it to the 2 million passenger volume that it typically records; however, pent-up demand is starting to reveal itself as airlines continue to experience new bookings for the summer. 

The overall summer 2021 passenger numbers are likely to be lower than those of summer 2019 due to lower business travel and international destinations remaining closed.  Without the return of the business traveler, getting back to 2019 levels of passengers may be difficult.  Currently, passenger volumes are approximately 70-80 percent of 2019 figures. 

As more passengers return to air transportation, airlines must also focus on the issue of understaffing.  Long lines at ticket counters represent not only a resurgance in the number of airline passengers, but also indicate a lag in the labor force within the airline industry, such as staffing for concessions, gates, ticket counters, and other facilities at airports.