With the summer travel season in full swing, airlines are seeing their passenger counts increase. For two days last week, the number of travelers through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints exceeded the number of travelers on the same days of the week in 2019. This was the first time since the start of the pandemic that air travel has exceeded its pre-pandemic levels. Over the past week, the number of air travelers was 81% of the number of travelers in 2019. Back in January of this year, the number of travelers was 40% of the 2019 count, by April it had risen to 59%, and in June it had risen to 74%. The steady rise since the start of the year is an indicator that the air travel industry is on the rebound and approaching levels last seen before the onset of Covid-19.
However, judged by the airlines’ stock prices, investors remain wary of some of the airlines’ prospects. American Airline’s stock price on Friday, July 2 was 74% of its value in mid-February 2020, United’s was 66%, Delta’s was 75%, and Southwest’s was 93%. This spring, Southwest’s share price actually exceeded its pre-pandemic share price. Some airlines relied more heavily on international travel pre-pandemic, and this has still not approached prior levels.
The rising air travel numbers are good news for air travel sector and for the broader hospitality and leisure sector. The pandemic has changed, at least for now, how firms are approaching the return of workers to the office. Working from home continues to keep mobility indices below their pre-pandemic levels. In turn, working from home is affecting the return of business travel. We will have to wait and see how business travel rebounds in coming months.