The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened more than 1 million passengers in one day for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic brought air travel to a near standstill earlier this year.

TSA, which is responsible for security at almost 450 airports across the country, says on 19 October that 1,031,505 passengers passed through its checkpoints a day earlier. That is the highest number of passengers screened at TSA checkpoints since 17 March.

EWR airport security 042420 Coronavirus. P. Wolfsteller

Source: Pilar Wolfsteller/FlightGlobal

Empty TSA checkpoint at Newark Liberty International airport on 24 April 2020

Still that’s down about 60% from the 2.6 million it screened on the same day a year ago.

The lowest daily passenger throughput at TSA security checks was 87,534 on 14 April, TSA says.

“Although passenger volumes remain well below pre-pandemic levels, the one million single-day passenger volume is a noteworthy development that follows significant TSA checkpoint modifications in response to the Covid-19 outbreak,” the agency says. It has installed acrylic barriers and is using more-advanced technologies to keep contact between passengers and TSA officers to a minimum.

TSA also says that during the week of 12 October through 18 October it screened a total of 6.1 million, representing the highest weekly volume since the beginning of the global health crisis.

Airlines, trade organisations and unions have called upon TSA to introduce coronavirus screening measures in order to inspire confidence in passengers, but so far the agency has not done so. 

The industry is still struggling to understand the long-term effects of the crisis. So far, most major passenger carriers have shrunk their networks, reduced fleets and furloughed employees. As the global pandemic drags on, many industry players do not see a full recovery until well into the coming decade. 

Travel restrictions, including 14-day quarantine requirements in some jurisdictions, and fears of catching the highly-contagious virus onboard an aircraft, continue to keep customers away in large numbers.