Global air travel shows first growth in 8 weeks

Apr 30, 2020

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Global air passenger traffic may have hit rock bottom and be on the way to recovery, even if it’s an incredibly modest one.

That’s according to new data from flight-data firm Cirium, which reported that the number of schedule passenger flights operating on Wednesday, 28 April, was 4% higher than the previous Wednesday (21 April).

If 4% sounds like a small bounce, it is. But it marks the first time that Cirium has tracked a daily week-over-week increase in scheduled passenger flights since 5 March, a span of more than eight weeks. Early March was about the time that the expanding coronavirus pandemic began to decimate flight schedules in North America and Europe after already doing the same to schedules across much of Asia.

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However, for those looking for signs of a rebound, the slight week-over-week flight increase Cirium recorded for April provides a glimmer of hope that some sort of recovery might finally be taking hold.

(Image courtesy of Cirium)
This graph shows Cirium data for scheduled passenger flights in 2020. (Image courtesy of Cirium)

Even in the U.S., there have been cautious signs that the bottom may have been passed, even though passenger counts remain shockingly low. On Thursday, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration screened just 119,629 people at its checkpoints – a figure that’s 95% lower than what it screened on the same day in 2019.

But, the count also has shown a continued upward trend since the TSA screened an all-time low of 87,534 people on 14 April. The agency’s daily screening numbers remained between 90,000 and 105,000 for much of the next week before jumping to 111,627 on 23 April.

The daily numbers have continued to trend up since. On Thursday (29 April), the number of screen travellers hit the six-figure mark (119,629) for the seventh consecutive day – a feat that hadn’t occurred since 6 April.

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Whether the trend continues remains to be seen. The overall numbers remain bleak: Even with the uptick on 28 April, Cirium’s data shows scheduled flights remain down 40% since the beginning of the year. And the number of travellers being screen by the TSA remain incredibly small.

Still, the latest trends from each of those sources offer a hopeful sign for those hoping that “rock bottom” may have already occurred.

Featured image by Daniel Roland, AFP via Getty Images

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