U.S. Airline Passenger Traffic Falls 94% in One Month

A sparse international departure terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) as concern over the coronavirus grows on March 7, 2020 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)
Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP

Airline traffic has nosedived.

In just one month, from March 1, 2020, to April 1, 2020, passenger traffic through U.S. airports fell 94 percent. The number of passengers plummeted from 2,280,522 flying on the first day of March to 136,023 flying on the first day of April, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

This represents a hairpin turn for airline traffic. In January 2020, air travel in the United States increased for the twenty-eighth consecutive month, with 70.5 million passengers traveling, up 5.6 percent for January 2019 (66.7 million), according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Those figures have been shattered in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Statistics show that domestic travel totaled 61.4 million passengers in January 2020, up six, two percent from January 2019 (57.8 million). And International flights totaled 9,13 million passengers in January 2020, up 2.0 percent from January 2019 (8.95 million).

Many countries, including the United States, have restricted international travel to stop the spread of the coronavirus, leading to a drastic reduction in both flights and passengers.

The airlines faced losing billions of dollars because of the pandemic, but many will likely weather the storm given the $50 billion appropriated to the industry in the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump last month.

But airline shares are not reacting positively to the rescue package, according to Barron’s, which reported on Wednesday that Delta Air Lines (DAL) has dropped 12 percent, United Airlines Holdings (UAL) has fallen 11 percent, and American Airlines (AAL) has declined 8.6 percent. The shares of the three major airlines are down more than 55 percent in 2020.

One reason is that shareholders are likely to be forced to absorb at least some of the pain. The government has talked about taking stakes in the airlines in exchange for rescue funds, which would likely dilute shareholders and block the ability of the airlines to distribute profits while the government aid is outstanding.

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