US sets pandemic-era high for air travel, over 1.6 million

Air travel continues to recover from the pandemic, although it’s still not close to normal

The United States set another record for the number of air travelers since the pandemic set in, although passenger numbers remain far below 2019 levels.

However, it was still 35% below the number of airport travelers reported on the comparable Sunday in 2019, according to TSA figures.

Government restrictions are also sharply limiting international travel, another lucrative piece of the airline business.

Nearly 50 U.S. and U.K. travel-industry groups urged President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to lift restrictions on travel between the two countries. The groups said in a letter Monday that it would be ideal if the two leaders would announce “the full reopening of the U.S.-UK air travel market for both U.S. and UK citizens” before the G7 meeting in early June.

Airline executives are cautiously optimistic about summer travel as more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is safe for vaccinated people to travel within the United States, although it continues to warn against travel to most foreign countries.

Last week, the TSA extended its requirement that airline passengers wear face masks. That rule was set to expire May 11, but TSA extended it through mid-September.

Travelers should expect planes to be more full. Over the weekend, Delta Air Lines stopped blocking off middle seats. It was the last U.S. airline to limit seating as a safety precaution.

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