With July in the books, air travel rose 143% from June with nearly 21 million passengers passing through US airports. However, travel is still down ~75% from July last year and much of July featured a travel stall out and even decline in weekly and daily passenger totals and averages while finishing the month with another all time high for the recovery.
The recovery efforts are very much uncertain and the first two days of August highlight the schizophrenic nature of travel (more on this in a moment).
Since the TSA began publishing daily passengers screened and comparing them to the prior year same day, we’ve been tracking the travel recovery here in the United States. July held quite a bit of promise for the industry, but it was largely a bit of a dud, as air travel, for the most part, plateaued. After a new daily high of 764k passengers on July 2nd (and likely related to the July 4th weekend), daily travel stalled. The chart below shows the weekly high points for the month of July along with several previous daily highs on the road to recovery.
Interestingly, for the months immediately following the all time lows in April, daily travel had been on a slow, if not consistent and steady climb. Every week or so a new daily high would be hit and the weekly totals and weekly daily averages of travelers continued to climb (see charts below). Until July.
As you can see from the charts above the growth of travel stalled out in July. In fact, we’d been preparing an article highlight the decline of travel and what we thought was a new trend emerging (and may yet still be) when the last two days of July surprised us. Up until the last two days of the month, the weekly totals and weekly daily averages, along with the weekly daily high were all declining. Then two “good” travel days closed the month out:
- Thursday July 30: 718, 310
- Friday July 31: 767,320 (a new high, up from the previous high on July 2nd of 764,761)
These two travel days pulled the weekly daily average up, reversing the trend of previous weeks while setting a new daily travel high. A high that would be short lived.
During the first two days of August, travel rose again, with a new all time high that was ever so close to 800k, coming in on 8/2 at 799,861 passengers screened.
With the increase in COVID infections in the month of July, talks of another lockdown, and reports from airlines about weakening bookings, we, along with probably many other travel pundits were ready to call the recovery officially stalled.
And it may yet be.
The first few weeks of August will tell us whether the brief increase in travel is the start of a new trend, or a blip on the “new normal” for daily passengers for a while as it oscillates between 500k and 800k daily passengers every week.
The truth is, we don’t really know.
What say you?
Is travel officially stalled out and the end of July / start of Aug was a blip or are we back on the rise again after a funky July? How long until we hit 1 million passengers? And maybe a better target: how far away are we from being 50% of the way recovered to “normal travel,” or ~1.2m daily passengers.
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