Mar 12, 2021 - Economy

Domestic air travel is 55% below pre-pandemic levels

Data: TSA; Chart: Axios Visuals

Passenger traffic at U.S. airports remains far below normal, but growing vaccination rates and an improving economy are leading to pent-up demand for travel, experts say.

Where it stands: A year into the pandemic, domestic air travel is 55% below pre-pandemic levels, while international travel is down 71%.

  • Delta Air Lines is the only U.S. carrier still blocking middle seats as a way to limit capacity (through April).
  • Meanwhile, Emirates Air now lets Economy Class customers pay $55 per empty seat to avoid sitting next to a stranger.

What to watch: Surveys show there's a growing willingness to travel once the virus is contained, according to the International Air Transport Association.

  • But government quarantines are "a showstopper," says the group's CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.
  • Global airlines are pushing for countries to enact a standardized digital health pass that would allow travelers to present their vaccine or COVID-19 testing status before boarding.
  • Over 130 countries today require a negative COVID test to fly.
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