A United Airlines kiosks at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, the US. Picture: JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES
A United Airlines kiosks at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, the US. Picture: JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

New York — The US's virus-ravaged airline industry has reached a milestone, carrying more than 1-million passengers for the first time in seven months by Sunday.

US airport security checkpoints processed 1,031,505 people, or 39.6% of the equivalent day in 2019, according to a tally by the Transportation Security Administration. It was the busiest day for air travel since March 16.

Several of the busiest days since mid-March have occurred in the past two weeks and passenger loads have been gradually increasing, but that provides scant relief for an industry still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. If Sunday’s level were maintained for an entire year, it would roughly roll the industry back to levels last seen 36 years ago, according to the trade group for large carriers, Airlines for America.

The steep drop in flyers has prompted billions of dollars of losses and tens of thousands of job cuts or voluntary furloughs as impacts reverberate across the aviation industry. A federal aid package that had covered the costs of airline payrolls and forbid job cuts expired on October 1 and attempts to extend it have faltered in partisan gridlock.

US airlines rose, with a Standard & Poor’s index of major carriers advancing 1.8% in New York. United Airline led the gains, climbing 3.5% to $35.35. United and Delta Air Lines said last week that they expect a long, slow recovery until there’s a vaccine.

At that time as the new coronavirus was first exploding in the US, passengers were canceling flights en masse. Within weeks, the average number of flyers had fallen to less than 100,000 per day, a drop of 96% from 2019 numbers.

People have incrementally returned to the skies, but in far fewer numbers than normal. The seven-day average as of Sunday was 871,513, or 35.6% of the equivalent week in 2019.

The overall passenger deficit ssinceMarch is enormous. Airlines’ loads fell by more than 417-million passengers ssincethe virus hit compared to the same period in 2019, a drop of about 75%, according to TSA.

Bloomerg 

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