On Sunday, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it screened 1.03 million airline passengers, the most since mid-March. The number is still about 60% lower than the same day last year, but is a dramatic rise from the collapse in air travel demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The notable milestone, reached Sunday, signifies both the progress made since the darkest days of the pandemic for the devastated U.S. airline industry, when screening fell to as little as 87,000 in a single day in April. The previous high for this year was 1.26 million screened on March 16.
The million-plus passengers screened Sunday compares with 2.6 million on the same day last year, or roughly 60% fewer, according to the TSA. They also said that the 6.1 million passengers at U.S. checkpoints the week of Oct. 12 through Oct. 18 was the greatest volume measured since the start of the pandemic.
The TSA statement on Monday also said it is adopting new measures to make security screening safer, including installing credential authentication devices at some checkpoints enabling passengers to insert IDs directly into a card reader.
U.S. airlines are collectively burning more than $5 billion in cash a month and have failed to date to convince Congress to approve a new $25 billion bailout that would have kept more than 32,000 workers on the payroll for another six months.
A previous airline payroll support program expired on Sept. 30. At some point, airlines may shift messaging to seeking new government funds to bring workers back.
Staff for the top Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate committees overseeing airlines have been working to try to reach an agreement on a potential standalone airline bill, but the airlines are not optimistic any bill will be approved before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
In the meantime, overall, in the U.S., 48% of pre-pandemic flights are canceled and many airlines are faced with having to furlough, or lay off workers and still have nearly one-third of their fleets idled, according to airline sources.