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Covid-19: US screened 500 million fewer airport passengers in 2020

Washington – The US government screened 500 million fewer people at US airport checkpoints in 2020, down 61 per cent over 2019, as air travel slowed sharply during the coronavirus pandemic, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said yesterday.

The TSA said it screened 324 million passengers throughout its airport security checkpoints in 2020, down from 824 million passengers screened in 2019. In recent weeks, travel has rebounded slightly. On Sunday, TSA screened 1.327 million people at airport checkpoints, the most since mid-March, but still down 45 per cent from the same day in 2020.

TSA said in a statement it anticipates “daily travel volumes will continue to rise steadily and follow seasonal patterns. However, the agency expects volume will remain well below pre-pandemic levels through most of 2021.”

Airlines for America, an industry trade group, said US airline passenger volumes were down 57 per cent over 2019 levels in mid-December, with domestic travel down 56 per cent and international air travel down 66 per cent.

Many airlines do not think travel will significantly rebound until widespread vaccinations take place.

Major airlines lost more than US$36 billion (RM144.2 billion) in the first nine months of 2020 but Congress has approved US$15 billion in new payroll assistance as part of a Covid-19 relief package to keep thousands of aviation workers on the payroll through March 31.

The US Transportation Department said in December that US passenger airlines as of mid-October employed 9.1 per cent fewer full-time equivalents employees versus the prior month to 368,162 ― down 36,707 jobs in a month and down 91,871 since mid-March.

Business travel remains especially hard hit. Planes are on average just 61 per cent full compared with 89 per cent in the same week last year while non-US citizen travel to the United States was down 84 per cent in November.

US travel to and from 14 of the 20 top foreign country destinations were down 90 per cent or more in October. ― Reuters

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