U.S. screens highest number of air passengers since 2019

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said Tuesday it had screened 2.785 million airline passengers on June 16, the highest number since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The TSA said it had screened approximately 10.6 million people from Friday through Monday, the Juneteenth holiday, giving an average of 2.67 million people per day.

Airlines reported few cancellations over the holiday period and the TSA said last Friday was the fourth-highest single-day for screenings ever and the highest since November 2019.

The post-COVID 19 rebound looks set to continue, with industry group Airlines for America estimating a record 256.8 million passengers will fly in the June-August quarter, up 1% over the 254.6 million passengers in the same period in 2019.

Carriers, which have already cut about 10% of scheduled flights this spring to address performance issues, are often operating larger planes as they have trimmed flights to smooth operations, especially in congested New York airspace.

Carriers, which had a rough 2022 with high cancellations at various points, have had a much improved 2023 through April, according to the FAA.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) agreed in March to requests by Delta Air Lines and United Airlines to temporarily return up to 10% of slots and flight timings at congested New York area airports John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia, Newark and Washington National, citing air traffic controller shortages for flights from May 15 to Sept. 15.

The carriers agreed to cuts on the condition they not be backfilled. Airlines can lose slots at congested airports if they do not use them at least 80% of the time.

The FAA said staffing at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control remains below targets. Last summer, air traffic control staffing was a factor in delays of 41,498 flights from New York airports, the FAA reported in March.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Mark Porter and Alexander Smith)