The number of people taking to the skies this summer was down by more than 70 percent most months, compared with the same period in 2019, according to preliminary summer travel data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
But the strong rebound over the holiday might signal that Americans are getting more comfortable with the idea of flying.
An August survey of 7,000 travelers by Skyscanner found that “positivity around travel remains,” particularly in the United States, as 32 percent of American respondents said they thought it was “currently safe to travel domestically” and 33 percent said they believe the global travel situation was improving. The latest data from Skyscanner has also shown that searches and bookings for travel from the United States have increased steadily for five weeks.
The record high came just days after the TSA announced it would be testing new facial recognition technology in at least one airport, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport, as it is “exploring rapid testing and deployment of this touchless, self-service technology.” The self-service scanner uses a camera to scan and confirm a passenger’s face, photo ID and flight details in seconds to reduce person-to-person interaction.
“As passenger volumes continue to steadily rise, the agency wants to ensure that the traveling public is mindful of what they can expect to see at checkpoints to help reduce the spread of covid-19, including TSA officers always wearing face masks and gloves at all airports, as well as face shields in certain locations in the screening process,” the TSA said in a pre-Labor Day news release.
The spike in traffic also comes as health experts project that the United States will see a rise in covid-19 cases. A model by the University of Washington is predicting daily death tolls will double this fall, The Washington Post reported. By the end of 2020, the model predicts, the total covid-19 death toll will exceed 400,000 — more than double the current number of fatalities.
In the days leading up to Labor Day, an official from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Maine, which has seen a rise in cases linked to a wedding, warned of a potential surge following Labor Day celebrations. The virus “likes holidays,” Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said in a news conference. “I am concerned that if we do not get a grip on what’s going on … it has the potential to spiral and start affecting adjacent parts of the state in the not-too-distant future,” he said.