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58.4 Million Flyers Traveled on U.S. Carriers in September 2021

New numbers by the U.S. Department of Transportation suggests the aviation industry is seeing recovery, but not quite to pre-pandemic levels.
Airlines are carrying more flyers as the pandemic pans down, but the levels are not yet back to the normal established in 2019.


The latest data from the U.S. Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) shows U.S.-based carriers transported 58.4 million Americans in September 2021 – which was still down nearly 20% compared to the same time two years ago.


Growth Reflects Smallest Year-Over-Year Growth Since Pandemic Began

According to the preliminary information released by the agency, the change in total passengers reflects a 133% increase compared to September 2020. However, the numbers were still down when based against pre-pandemic levels. Domestic travel was off by 16%, while international travel was still down by 50%.


Chart courtesy: U.S. Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics


Although the increase reflected a 133% growth compared to 12 months ago, BTS says the increase was the smallest year-over-year growth since March. But when measured against the lowest point in April 2020, the increase is dramatic, with airlines carrying 55.5 million more flyers.


Chart courtesy: U.S. Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics


The numbers are particularly encouraging to airlines, who are not only expecting a return to profitability by the end of 2021, but also a surge heading into the holiday season. According to AAA, 4.2 million flyers are expected to transit through airports over the Thanksgiving 2021 weekend, a drop of only 400,000 passengers from 2019.


“International travel re-opening will allow people to reconnect with friends and family and explore new places, while also giving a much-needed boost to the economy,” AAA Travel senior vice president Paula Twidale said in a press release. “But it also means airports will be busier than we’ve seen, so travelers must plan for long lines and extra time for TSA checks.”


Flight Attendants Fear More Air Rage Incidents Ahead of Holiday Travel

With signs of recovery pointing towards the busiest holiday season since 2019, flight attendants say they are worried about more air rage incidents happening between crews and passengers. In testimony to Congress, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA president Sara Nelson told legislators the lack of staffing means aviation workers need more protection from the federal government.


“The inability to increase staffing prior to the holidays is why stopping the disruptive and violent incidents is so critical,” Nelson said in prepared testimony on Tuesday, November 16, 2021. “Coordination between government, airports, and airlines can increase the effectiveness of current resources as everyone in the aviation ecosystem understands their role in stopping these events before they start.”