Airline travel rebounds amid COVID pandemic

Travelers check in for Southwest Airlines flights at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Thursday, March 11.

Travelers who haven’t flown since the coronavirus pandemic began are in for a surprise if they’re expecting empty airports and planes when they return.

Passengers packed planes during the Thanksgiving and year-end holiday rushes despite advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to avoid travel and are now doing so in greater numbers for spring break.

The latest evidence arrived Saturday from the Transportation Security Administration. The agency said it screened 1,357,111 passengers on Friday, on top of 1,284,271 on Thursday as travelers headed out on vacations. With more than half the month to go, March is shaping up to be a strong one for airlines, with passenger counts topping 1 million on seven days so far.

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Friday’s numbers are the highest since the Sunday after New Year’s when 1,327,289 passengers were screened. The totals fell below 90,000 in April 2020 in the early days of the pandemic and didn’t top 1 million again until October.