Two charts that show an uptick in U.S. air travel — but a long road back to anywhere near normal

Key Points
  • Air travel demand has picked up from the April lows, but is still far off normal levels.
  • The coronavirus is the biggest challenge the industry has faced, airline executives have said.
  • Transportation Security Administration data shows higher numbers of travelers in May than lows hit in April.
Passengers, some wearing masks and protective gear, queue for their flight at Terminal 1 of John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) amid the novel coronavirus pandemic on May 13, 2020 in Queens, New York.
Johannes Eisele | AFP via Getty Images

U.S. air travel demand has inched higher this month but airlines are nowhere near their normal levels for this time of year, as the coronavirus keeps most would-be travelers home.

In the first 14 days of the month, close to 2.5 million people passed through checkpoints at U.S. airports, according to the Transportation Security Administration. That's up 63% from the same period in April. 

But even with the upswing, compared with the same time last year, the number of people passing through U.S. airports is down more than 92%, according to TSA data. The second and third quarters that coincide with spring and summer vacations are the most lucrative for airlines and continued weak demand could deprive airlines of that all-important revenue.