The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has screened more passengers than on the comparable day prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

The government body, which is responsible for security at about 450 airports across the USA, today says that on 22 December 2,081,297 people passed through its checkpoints. That’s almost double the number on the same day in 2020, and 7% more than the 1,937,235 who travelled on that day in 2019.


Source: Pittsburgh International airport

TSA checkpoint at Pittsburgh International airport

It’s the highest percentage over pre-Covid figures since the beginning of the crisis, and the fourth time that the 2021 number of travellers has exceeded the previous number two years ago. 

The other days were 1 July and 2 July, at the start of the Independence Day holiday long weekend, and on 29 August, which marked the end of the traditional summer holiday travel season in north America.

Daily security screenings at US airports dropped to a low of 87,534 on 13 April 2020, as the coronavirus tore around the world, leading to a precipitous drop in passenger demand during most of 2020.

Since then, as vaccinations have rolled out across the country, domestic travel has returned to levels similar to those prior to the global health crisis, with many full and overbooked flights. Airlines have spent the last months scrambling to bring crews and aircraft back into their regular operations to satisfy that demand.

International travel, however, still remains about 15-20% lower due to lingering restrictions and complications regarding ever-shifting travel rules. That said, US major airlines have ramped up their schedules for the summer travel season 2022, hoping to cash in on the pent-up demand for international vacations.

Despite the rise in passenger numbers, the highly-contagious Omicron variant of Covid-19 has potential customers on edge about travelling during this end-of-year holiday season. Public health officials are warning the country will soon see a spike in infections with the variant, similar to what the UK and parts of Europe are currently experiencing.