The TSA screened nearly 2.15 million people on Thursday, nearly 3% more than the 2.01 million people who passed through security checkpoints at US airports on July 1, 2019. It is little likely that the trend will continue. July 1, 2019 was a Monday and a low point for the week, when screenings drew more than 706,000 people to peak on July 5.
Still, the milestone shows the surge in demand for air travel since a large vaccine rollout in the United States this spring and an easing of closures or restrictions related to the pandemic. The increase is mainly due to domestic leisure travel in the United States, with most long-haul business and international travel still pending.
Airlines, meanwhile, are grappling with a slew of thunderstorms this week in the United States, causing delays in the Dallas / Fort Worth area, home to the hubs of Southwest Airlines and American. Airlines.
Southwest canceled 194 flights, or 5% of its schedule, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. More than 800 flights – or 23% of the day’s schedule – were delayed, the site said. About 130 U.S. flights – or 4% of the program – have been canceled and nearly 700 have been delayed, according to data from FlightAware.
Airlines and airports are also scrambling to ensure they have enough staff for the peak summer season.
Carriers have been banned from taking workers on involuntary leave in exchange for $ 54 billion in federal wage assistance. But airlines have turned to voluntary measures and urged employees to take buyouts, early retirements or temporary leave during the pandemic. Many are trying to hire or recall them as well as hire temporary or new full-time staff to meet the increased demand.
Earlier this week, CNBC announced that Southwest is offering double pay for flight attendants as well as ground operations and freight officers to take turns during the first week of July to avoid disruptions. flight. American last month said it slashed its schedule for the first half of July by about 1%, in part due to soaring demand and staff constraints.
JetBlue Airways has said it will offer flight attendants who do not call between July 1 and September 6 $ 800 or four one-way passes for future flights.
“This summer will not be easy financially or operationally, and the calls are making this time even more difficult,” said Ed Baklor, vice president of flight experience at JetBlue, in a note reviewed by CNBC.
Delta Air Lines is hiring 1,300 reservation agents by the fall after customers faced hours of waiting. The airline also plans to hire pilots, flight attendants and mechanics.
United Airlines – which like Delta was more cautious about adding flights this summer compared to American and Southwest – credited federal aid and a deal with its pilots union that kept many aviators up to date and available to fly as helping to avoid some of its competitors. operational challenges.
Airports also face many staffing challenges, with some concession operators offering signing bonuses of $ 1,000 to fill vacant cashiers, cooks and other jobs.