Airlines

U.S. air travel reaches pandemic high as peak season kicks off

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Key Points
  • The TSA screened more than 1.9 million people at U.S. airports on Friday and Monday.
  • Volumes reached a pandemic high, but were still below Memorial Day 2019.
  • Higher numbers of travelers are boosting the price of a vacation.
Travelers wait in line at a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening checkpoint at Orlando International Airport on the Friday before Memorial Day. As more and more people have received the COVID-19 vaccine, American Automobile Association (AAA) is predicting more than 37 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles this Memorial Day weekend, many for the first time since the pandemic began.
Paul Hennessy | LightRocket | Getty Images

Air traveler volumes hit the highest levels since before the coronavirus pandemic began during Memorial Day weekend, the latest sign of recovery for the sector.

The Transportation Security Administration screened an average of 1.78 million people from Friday through Monday, hitting a peak of 1.96 million on Friday. Those volumes are more than six times higher than a year ago, but still 22% below Memorial Day weekend in 2019.

The surge in travelers is pushing up the price of vacations, including airfare, hotel rates and car rental prices. Domestic leisure fares are near 2019 levels, airline executives have said.

Several airline stocks rose Tuesday after the TSA released the latest data. American Airlines and United Airlines each gained about 2%. Budget airlines Spirit and Allegiant each gained 3% while the S&P 500 fell less than 0.1%.