Dec 20, 2021 - Economy

How air travel compares to two years ago

Percentage change in U.S. outbound scheduled passenger flights
Data: Airlines for America; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Omicron fears notwithstanding, this is a time of year when many of us are traveling by air for the holidays.

A look at passenger traffic statistics shows improvement compared to the worst of the pandemic's first wave, but business travel, a major revenue driver for airlines, is still down compared to pre-pandemic days.

Why it matters: The airline industry's financial fate is strongly tied to the waves of the pandemic, according to data from Airlines for America, which advocates for U.S. airlines.

Details: Although passengers are back in the skies, there are now fewer flights to choose from in many areas. On average, the number of scheduled flights set to depart from all 50 states in January 2022 is down by 12 percentage points compared to Jan. 2019, which was pre-pandemic.

  • A few locations have bucked that trend, including the state of Colorado and Washington's Reagan National Airport.
  • States that have lost the most outbound flights include Georgia, California and Pennsylvania.
  • Another slide in the latest AIA deck shows changes in the aircraft fleet of U.S. carriers, with 5,780 aircraft flying pre-pandemic, including 495 twin-aisle planes like the Boeing 767, to 5,389 aircraft, including 385 wide-bodies.
  • That trend reflects the retirement of older, less fuel-efficient aircraft types.
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