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Despite Sharp Passenger Increase, Airline Flyers Down 80 Percent in June

Despite Sharp Passenger Increase, Airline Flyers Down 80 Percent in June
Joe Cortez

Although the entire airline industry reported almost double the flyers from May 2020, it’s still not enough to help the industry recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to preliminary data released by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, passenger enplanements were up, but still down 80 percent from June 2019.

The airline industry experienced a major positive spike in June 2020, but it may not be enough to create lasting, long-term change during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), preliminary numbers suggests airline passenger traffic increased nearly doubled in June 2020, but is still only one-fifth of the total flyers reported in June 2019.

16.3 Million Flyers Took to the Skies in June 2020

According to the early results, the BTS says 16.3 million passengers flew aboard the large airlines in June 2020, which was a stark increase from the 8.4 million in May 2020. The increase showed five-times more flyers than compared to April 2020, when only three million flyers boarded commercial flights.

However, the growth is not necessarily encouraging for the airlines. Prior to the months following lockdowns due to COVID-19, the record for the fewest number of passengers was set in February 1975, when only 14.6 passengers flew aboard airlines. The numbers from April and May 2020 were well below that watermark, while June’s preliminary passenger count was less than two million more than the previous record.

Domestic passengers decreased by 77 percent comparing June 2020 to June 2019, but was an increase compared to the lows experienced in April and May 2020. April 2020 had a decline of 95.7 percent, while May 2020 had a decline of 88.5 percent. The BTS notes that the number of domestic passengers grew for 29 months between October 2017 and February 2020.

International travel took the biggest hit, as nations continue to close their borders to American flyers. Continuing a trend of decimated passenger loads, airlines reported 96.4 percent decrease in passenger loads between June 2020 and 2019. It is the third consecutive month where month-over-month passenger loads were below 90 percent.

Depressed Passenger Loads Support Long Recovery Timeline for Airlines

The early data from the BTS supports multiple projections that the overall aviation industry may not fully recover this year. Although there was an increase in system-wide passengers, the gains are all based on domestic travel.

Two projections in July 2020 suggest that as flyers hesitate to travel, the airline recovery may be stuck in low gear. Moody’s Investor Services suggested airlines may not see pre-COVID levels of travelers until 2023, while the International Air Transport Association says it might not recover until 2024.

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